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It’s been more than a dozen years. Sometimes it seems like yesterday; sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago. My little girl finally had her own bicycle. Not a trike, but a real two-wheeler. The bike was the product of a successful visit to a nearby garage sale. It was the perfect pink, little-girl bicycle. My daughter loved it at once. I struck a bargain, stored our new treasure in the trunk and drove home. I couldn’t unload the new prize fast enough. My little girl wanted her bike on the road now! It was a warm, sunny day, ideal for learning to ride a bicycle.

Parenthood is a long series of events, each of which falls on one side or the other of a basic parental dichotomy: We want our children to grow up to be independent, yet we want our children to depend on us. We seem reluctant to accept that the love our children have for us is based on what they feel, not what we do for them.


I can see my little girl sitting atop her new bike. She is so small, yet so eager. Her husky voice begs me, “Don’t let go, Dad!” Her teeth are clenched. The dimpled pink hands display white knuckles. I keep one hand on the seat and the other on a handlebar. I jog slowly alongside the bike and rider. Occasionally, I remove one hand, but I hear, “Don’t let go, Dad!”

Even allowing for the inaccuracies of my memory, she seems to have mastered this complex activity as she would later learn other skills and knowledge—quickly, but only after some frustration over her lack of instant expertise. She executed her characteristic, methodical attack on the challenge with a strong, almost heartbreaking, desire for success. Tentatively, I again removed my hand. “Don’t let go, Dad!”

She bubbles with excited anticipation over her lunchtime sandwich. We rush back outside to the sidewalk test track. In spite of her anxiety about falling, the wobbling front wheel is beginning to stabilize. It won’t be long now. I can feel her growing confidence. I have to jog a little faster. Her legs pump with newfound strength and confidence.

What event in child rearing presents a more poignant picture of growing independence? Learning to walk is a beginning of independence. Learning to talk and express original thought is also a step along that road. But these steps are gradual, and allow for some adjustment time for the parents. Learning to ride a bike is learning to fly—an experience that almost instantly gives the recipient a new, permanent and irrevocable freedom.

The moment has come. I’ve known for several minutes that she has acquired the magic “it” that makes this improbable form of transport possible. My daughter finally realizes it, too. Now, my hand no longer steadies her efforts; it is holding her back. My body lumbering alongside is not comforting—it is distracting.

“Let go, Dad!”

She takes off like a shot! Little pigtails flying in the air. She goes at least fifty feet before coming to a gentle stop in the grass adjacent to the sidewalk. She beams. She glows.

She has a grin that could only have come from self- satisfaction. I smile, too. Not just because I share her sense of accomplishment, but because I realize that she has begun a journey. She’s on it, still.

Parenthood harbors sorrows and joys. Some events, inexplicably, bring both simultaneously. A holding on and a letting go. A little push on a bike. A hug and a blessing at the door before school. We are bound, as parents, to do both: hold and release, each in its own time. I willingly release my children to their futures. I encourage their independence to discover their strengths and talents. But let go? Never.

 

© 2000 from Chicken Soup for the Father's Soul

 

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Cell Phone

Since my 16-year-old son recently received a prepaid cell phone as a gift, I've asked him to use it to call home if he's out past his curfew. One Saturday night while waiting up for him, I dozed off in front of the TV. Later I woke to realize that there was no sign of him, and there had been no call. 
    Irate, I punched in his number. When he answered, I demanded, "Where are you, and why haven't you bothered to call?" 
    "Dad," he sleepily replied, "I'm upstairs in bed. I've been home for an hour."

 

STUFFED FRENCH TOAST (Dad's day breakfast)
 
2 servings, one sandwich each
4 Tbsp. PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Spread
4 slices cinnamon raisin bread
8 slices OSCAR MAYER Shaved Honey Ham
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. maple-flavored or pancake syrup

SPREAD cream cheese spread onto 2 of the bread slices. Top with ham; cover with remaining 2 bread slices. Lightly press edges of each sandwich together to seal.

BEAT eggs, milk and sugar with fork in pie plate or square baking dish until well blended. Dip sandwiches in egg mixture, turning over to evenly moisten both sides.

SPRAY large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat on medium heat (adult assisted). Add sandwiches; cook 2 min. on each side or until golden brown on both sides. Serve with syrup.


Kitchen Tips

Serving Suggestion
Add a fresh fruit salad to this dish for a delicious breakfast to start your day.
Substitute
 
This recipe can also be made with PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, 1/3 Less Fat than Cream Cheese, softened, in place of the cream cheese spread.
 
Jazz It Up
If you love cinnamon, double the cinnamon hit by sprinkling the cream cheese with extra ground cinnamon.

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