"Ok, you can let go," my daughter, Rory, said to me last weekend. Then I watched as she took off on her bike, sans training wheels, for the very first time. I clapped, I cheered, tears were in my eyes and she was beaming. I will never forget that moment.
I know, I know, I looked ridiculous (riding a bike isn't exactly winning the Pulitzer). But it was a big deal to me. A huge freaking deal, in fact, because that moment symbolized the release of anger and worry I still had about her lot in life.
After my ex-husband walked out on us six years ago, we agreed that he would see Rory every Wednesday night and every other weekend. About a year in, he just stopped showing up, proving himself a dead beat. And I was ticked.
Don't get me wrong, I figured out fairly quickly that I was better off without him and that I'd survive as a single mom. But abandoning my kid is a whole other thing (an image of protective mama bear should come to mind here). Mostly, I worried about how she'd be impacted by not having a dad around.
I did my best to do all the stuff dads are "supposed" to teach their kids (I use this term loosely, realizing how antiquated and gender-biased I'm being). I take her camping and to cottages, we play sports and go swimming and I've taught her to kayak and skip rocks. Until I remarried last year, she would give me cards and homemade BBQ aprons for Father's Day. I tried to fill both roles the best I could.
But I was avoiding one thing: teaching her to ride her bike. At four and five, she was still using training wheels when her friends would fly by on two wheels. It took me awhile to figure out why I hadn't taken the time to help her. Basically, I thought it was my ex-husband's job and I was mad that he wasn't around to teach her.
Last summer, she turned seven and I told myself: "enough is enough. It's about time Rory learns to ride a bike." She didn't get the hang of it at first. She wobbled, had trouble with the brakes and wasn't ready for me to let go. But this year, she got it on the first try.
As she zoomed away, I knew in my heart of hearts that she's fine. We'll make it through this world together until she's ready to go off on her own. I'll watch her try to navigate the bumps, obstacles and turns of life, and I'll cheer her on every step (or peddle) of the way.