I let her go.
I had to.
How else would she learn?
She stayed upright for a few seconds. She wobbled to the left and then....clattered to the ground.
"You let me go!" she yelled indignantly.
"I can't hold on, otherwise you'll never learn," I explained gently. Tears prickled my eyes as I realized the sentence I had just uttered applied to life too.
Natalie got to her feet and kicked her bike. "I'll never get this!" she shrieked.
She had been trying to ride a two-wheeler for a couple of days. Her friends all rode two-wheelers. Natalie was the only one with training wheels and she had marched into the house one day proclaiming that it was time to get rid of them.
"I'm big now," she had said, shrugging.
So we took them off.
And she fell.
Oh, she had pads, of course. A helmet. But she still claimed she was hurt. She didn't understand why I'd let her fall.
It pained me to see her tumble off her bike. I just didn't show it. If she saw I was petrified, she might not concentrate. So I pretended to be confident as I'd say, "Okay, I'm letting go now," while I jogged beside her. My hands would grasp the seat and the handle, and I'd slowly release my hold. It was the same each time: Natalie would ride upright for a few seconds and then she'd fall to the sidewalk.
"I don't CARE anymore," Natalie insisted as tears rolled down her cheeks. "I want my training wheels back!"
I reminded her that she could do it. It would just take a few more tries. Couldn't she try again? For Mommy? No? For Daddy, then? Yes? Okay, here we go...
Each time she'd ride a little longer.
I would clap and whoop. I was hoping my noise would distract her from falling. Sometimes it worked.
And then one day as I jogged beside Natalie grasping her bike? She told me to let go. She assured me she could do it.
My fingers broke free. I watched as Natalie kept going.
"I'm doing it!" Natalie said triumphantly. "I'm DOING IT!"
"Only I don't know how to stop!" Natalie said, dragging her feet against the sidewalk. She tilted slightly and managed not to tip over. "I'm growing up!" Natalie informed me.
"You are." My heart squeezed. She was only six, but the years seemed to have flown by.
Natalie is a pro on her bike. She rides confidently with her friends.
Letting go? Was worth it.