There is a delicate balance that every good parent will struggle to maintain.
On the morning of my daughter Cara’s 7th birthday I awakened her, helped her into her safest warm weather clothes and marched her to the garage. It was time for her to partake in a wondrous rite of passage. Today she would learn to ride her bike without training wheels. Together we hoisted her pink and blue Barbie bicycle onto a stand to remove the precious training wheels. She looked prideful and terrified at all at the same time. I remember thinking: “I hope she doesn’t get hurt and hate me forever for making her do this.” As I placed the flowery pink helmet onto her pretty little brunette head, no words were exchanged but I could still hear her little voice pleading: “Daddy I am not ready for this.”
Undeterred, I placed her on her seat and wheeled her onto the driveway. I would run along side and hold her up until she could balance and then I would let go. After one long and frustrating hour we had given up. On the quiet walk home one thought battled for my attention. “You cannot teach her to be a quitter!” After a short rest I retrieved a bottle of water to share with her. As she drank I stared at her bike, then at the training wheels and had a revelation. During the past few months Cara’s training wheels had been mounted incorrectly. This had taught her to lean to one side making balance without the wheels nearly impossible.
Unfortunately this realization didn’t make things any easier. After another exhausting hour I resolved that today just wasn’t the day. We walked home with crushed pride in hand. In the ensuing silence that one thought just kept returning to my conscience. Then I had a blazing moment of clarity. I was the problem. I had been holding Cara up when I needed to just let go. Ten minutes later my little girl was riding that Barbie bicycle all by herself. Her sadness had been replaced by a smile as wide as the open sky above.
I had learned to just let go.