Learning to Let Go


Tonight we took the training wheels off my son’s bike, and I couldn’t be more nervous.

My wife, in attempts to encourage him to learn to ride without the training wheels, told him he could ride faster without training wheels.

For my son, who LOVES to run as fast as humanly possible, it was like throwing gas on a fire.

Go faster? Yes, please!

Meanwhile, my first instinct was to rush out and buy him elbow and knee pads… and maybe see if someone can repave our roads with that soft foamy surface they use in some playgrounds.

I’m a worrier. I get that from my mom. But I don’t want to be the overprotective father who keeps his son from ever getting hurt, from learning to take chances. I see other kids who do all kinds of things I’m scared to hell to let my son do. His cousin, for instance (only a year older) rides BMX bikes. He’s going to be a stunt double someday.

I want my son to have that kind of self-confidence, and not be a worrier. Nothing is worse for a boy growing up ( trust me, I know from personal experience ) than to be a worrier. On the one hand, my mom’s overprotective nature probably saved me from dying in some freak bike off the roof type mishap, but there has to be some happy medium where you can let your kids do some things even though they might get hurt.

Without life’s bumps and bruises, we fail to grow.

So, I unscrewed the training wheels, trying not to freak out and picture my son with bruises, broken bones, and whatever else can go wrong falling from a bike.

My wife and I ran beside him, holding on, as he attempted to balance. But man, he was having a hard time balancing and remembering to pedal forward.

So, after a trip up the block and back, it was getting dark, and my fat ass was getting winded trying to keep up, so we decided to head inside for the night.

He didn’t want to go in, though. He wanted to keep riding.

I, though, was all too eager to get him back inside and off the road.

So, tomorrow, we’ll head back out while he learns to ride, and I learn to let go.

Thank you for reading,


(P.S. I’m thinking about trying with one training wheel at first, or maybe with a lighter bike? This beast ways almost as much as him? Any suggestions from those of you who have been through this? Please leave a comment below.)

20 thoughts on “Learning to Let Go

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  1. Dave,

    Awesome post! It’s great to see the family man side of you. And, I know what you mean about balancing the desire for your son to grow with the need to protect him from everything out in the world. My son is six and he is a natural worrier. I struggle with this. Half of me is confident that his worrisome nature will keep him out of the stupid troubles his peers will go through as they move through school, but the other half wants him to not be afraid to make a mistake or embarrass himself along the way.

    Best wishes for soft falls and speedy recoveries tomorrow when that inevitable first fall happens.

    And deep breathes and a diet coke at the ready for you!

    Cheers, AC

    1. Thanks, Archer. My son is a worrier, too, in some regards. But not nearly as bad as I was. I’m just trying to encourage his adventurous spirit while still ensuring that he knows not to do anything too crazy or dangerous. Tough line. Thanks for commenting.

  2. We started in the grass, in a very big field. Eventually we moved on to long, straight roads that were free of any obstruction. After five days, I was chasing a bike instead of pushing it. My only condition for all of this? Wear long pants. It’s one thing to let go, it’s another to go out unprepared.

    1. Thanks. Maybe we should take him to a field or something. And you’re right on the pants. I didn’t even think of that until after we were out there. Plus, I didn’t think he’d actually fall tonight. But next time, for sure. And maybe a giant padded jacket like the kid in A Christmas Story.

  3. Kids learn a lot faster than you might think. Don’t do the one wheel thing. He’ll get it. I’ve managed to get two kids into their teens with only one trip to the emergency room. That was even with the, “Hey dad, look, no hands” stage.

    I’ll always remember something my old man used to say to me, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying hard enough.”

  4. Haven’t taught anyone to ride a bike, but some odd and end ideas from watching the grand nephew learn and my own life…

    Balance bike. There are such things as pedal-less “balance” bikes that let the learner get familiar with balancing, and slow speed starting and stopping, without the distraction of pedaling. Might be possible to do similar on a conventional pedal bicycle… just having them not pedal. Perhaps do some slow speed runs during which learner focuses on just balancing while someone provides ongoing steady push and other runs during which learner focuses on pedaling while someone provides balance. Separate/isolate the two activities till comfortable with each individually, then combine.

    Sleep on it. I learned this from taking piano lessons as an adult. Spend a little time on it each day, don’t force it, sleep on it overnight, repeat the next day. Incremental learning, some of which appears to happen at night while sleeping. Over a span of days or weeks, incremental improvement until it seems natural and taken for granted.

    Do it, don’t think about it. It’s probably more of an immersive hands-on than theoretical situation.

    These are the days! Enjoy.

  5. Poor Dave! I know the feeling. The absolute terror and heart-pounding fear! But guess what? They just seem to get it without causing too much damage to themselves. Just to ease your mind, raise the training wheels up about an inch or two. They’re adjustable. Every day (or so), raise them up another inch. First thing you know….he’s riding without them! Don’t do the 1 wheel thing….people do that, the kid knows and they’ll fall the OTHER (wheel-less) way every damn time!

  6. Love the post Dave. Just going through this with my daughter right now. She is way braver than I would like, but she is going ok. It still bothers me a lot though. You do have to let go. It isn’t easy though.

  7. He is going to fall, so I say, let him fall while you are there to catch him. This wont be his last bike accident, but the first of many. And it wont be be the only kind of fall he will take in the years to come! He will fall in love, fall out of love; he will fall for stupid jokes by his friends; he will fall behind in his studies and fall and fall and fall. As a parent, we want to be there to rescue them for all of it, but we can’t. We hope that what we teach them sticks. We hope the cushions, knee pads, sholder pads, we arm them with will help them grow stronger, keep thier bones or heart from breaking. But that’s all we can do – arm them and hope for the best!

  8. Hi Dave! Oh, the trials & tribulations of parenthood!! My husband did the running alongside bit, & she caught on pretty fast! Exuding an air of confidence in the child’s ability goes a long way, too! Best of luck to our son & hang in there parents! =]

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