This week Emily took off her training wheels.
We took them off once before. And we gave it a good shot. She just wasn’t ready. So we put them back on and we figured they would come off again when it was time . Predictably, “ready” came as soon as Kellan, her buddy across the street, took off his training wheels and rode across his yard.
We had plans to start working on it this weekend. But she decided she simply could not wait that long. Wednesday after school we headed to a local park. MQD had plans to help Em with her bike while I got a little exercise with Lucy in her stroller. I took off down the walking path leaving them to adjust her helmet. As I rounded the corner some ten minutes later and they came back in to my sight I could see that there had not exactly been a lot of progress. She was standing next to her bike. Her posture alone told me she was crying.
She hadn’t even fallen. I’d warned her. You will fall. And you will get up and get back on your bike. The last time we had tried she had fallen and had still not been so upset so I wondered as I got closer just what exactly was under her skin.
The stakes were higher this time. And she seemed paralyzed. “What are you afraid of,” I asked her. “Falling. Breaking my arm. Going to the hospital. I am so, so afraid….”
And I saw myself in her face.
MQD and I switched places. He pushed Lucy around the track in her stroller for a bit and in less than twenty minutes Em was riding.
To be both brave and afraid all at the same time. I feel this all of the time. And my heart broke for her. She wanted to ride. She was ready. But her fear kept her from peddling fast enough to keep from tipping over.
For so many years I thought what I wanted was a partner that would hold me as I wept. “I’m scared,” I would cry. “You can do it,” they would say as they swept my hair from my face tenderly.
Turns out that isn’t what I needed at all. A little bit of MQD’s tough love has gone a long way. I am brave more often than I am scared.
“You can do it,” I said. “Get back on your bike.” And she rode. Crying. Three feet at a time because she kept stopping to wail about how terribly afraid she was. She is afterall my daughter.
And soon the three feet became ten feet. And the firm hold on her bicycle seat became a less firm grip under her arm. And then I had one of those delicious parenting moments where I was running along side her as she rode her bike. She was yelling “don’t let go, don’t let go” and I was yelling back (having already let go) “you’re doing it, you’re doing it.”
I watched her ride down that path and tears streamed down my face. She was free. A bike with no training wheels. Equal parts brave and afraid.
In our wedding vows MQD and I quoted part of Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker to one another “my love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”
Riding a bike is just like that. I live without training wheels now. And I am equal parts brave and afraid.