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By Cheryl Diane Kidder

WO Release ArtI’ve got her around the waist and she’s balancing OK, but I keep having to grab a pink tennis shoe, putting it up on one pedal and then the other. We’re not moving yet, just sitting still out behind the house in the big shared parking lot between our apartment buildings. It’s October and it’s cold but she’s run out of the house as soon as she saw it, wanting to ride it right away. She should have a coat on. She should have a warmer shirt on, maybe boots and kneepads.

Now both feet are up on the pedals. I’ve backed off to just have my hands on either side of her waist but I’m only holding on lightly. Her hands are tight on the tasseled handlebars. Her helmeted head keeps looking down at her feet and I want her looking up, straight ahead. She needs to see what’s in front of her or it won’t work. She needs to be balanced well enough to be able to glance from side to side, to watch out for obstacles. Rocks or sticks in the way might topple her. She might take a fall. I’m thinking I should have bought elbow pads.

Even though the little Schwinn has training wheels, they don’t fit flatly on the ground. There’s some give. She wobbles a little even though she’s standing in place. If she doesn’t control that wobble, could she fall? I’ve been watching the parking lot. It’s late morning and it looks like everybody’s sleeping in. There’s traffic out on the street but the parking lot is quiet and appears safe. I ask her, “Are you ready?”

“Yes, Mom. Let me go.”

“When I let go, just peddle slowly, not too fast.”

“I know how, Mom. Let me go.” She pushes a little in an attempt to nudge the bike away from my grasp. I hold on a little longer.

“I’ll be right beside you.”

“I know, Mom. Come on. I want to ride.”

Now she’s really getting impatient. I’m afraid after all this preparation, she’ll take off too fast, try to do too much all at once, fall on her face and I’d be too far behind her to help.

“I’ll keep my hand on your shoulder when you start out, OK? So if it feels weird, just tell me and I can help you stop.” I don’t want to let go. “Do you remember how to stop?”

“Yes, Mom. You told me a thousand times.” She drops her helmeted head.

“Always look up. Always look where you’re going.”

“I will. I will. Now let me go.”

“OK. I’m going to let you go now.” I pause just a moment longer. I feel her feet pushing at the pedals. “OK, ready? Go.”

I let go of her and move to her side, keeping my right hand on her shoulder. She starts out slow and the bike is really wobbling a lot.

“I have to go faster, Mom.”

“OK, OK.” I take my hand away from her shoulder. “Try it out. Go ahead. You can do it.”

“I know I can do it, Mom.” And she takes off. Not so fast at first and I’m able to keep up with her, but fast enough so the training wheels don’t wobble. I scan the path in front of her. It looks clear.

“You’re doing it, you’re doing it,” I yell at her.

“I know,” she yells over her shoulder, wisely keeping her face turned front.

I stop just for a moment and watch her pedal away from me. She’s so little. Her pink tennies turn the pedals smoothly. She keeps her body perfectly seated, her face forward, sailing across the paved parking lot like she’s been riding bikes for ages and ages. Then she slows down, maybe sensing I’m not beside her anymore. She stops smoothly, then on tiptoes walks the bike around in a semi-circle to face me again.

“Hey, you didn’t come with me. You said you’d help me stop.” She turns her helmeted head to the side, one foot posed jauntily on a pedal, one tippy-toed on the ground to keep her balance, perfectly and beautifully all by herself.

“I could see you didn’t need my help. You did it all yourself.”

I stop then and see the girl she will become; confident, strong and completely independent. I see how obsolete I will soon become. I see how much I will lose in the next few years as she’ll turn to me less and less. I see how little I really had to do with her becoming the person she already is. I see that my job, for the foreseeable future, will be to simply get out of her way. So when she starts pedaling back toward me, full steam ahead, a huge grin on her face, that’s exactly what I do.

About the Author: Cheryl Diane Kidder has a B.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Her work, nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, has appeared or is forthcoming in: CutThroat Magazine, Weber–The Contemporary West, Pembroke Magazine, Tinge Magazine, Brevity Magazine, Identity Theory, In Posse Review, and elsewhere. For a full listing, see her blog: Truewest –

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