First I ran alongside with a firm hand on her neck and shoulders to keep her from falling. Then not so firm as she started to get her balance. Then I only held the seat, lightly. Finally, still running alongside, I told her I was holding the seat, but was really not. Keep pedaling, I said, you’ve got it. There was a mix of terror and delight on her face as she pulled away from me.
Initially, she wouldn’t ride out of my sight. She was scared of falling, and the first time she did, I was immediately there to help her up and brush her off. I told her that it is good to fall sometimes, it means she is learning. I remember she would later spend her afternoons riding endless circles around our block, and I’d see her through the kitchen window as she whizzed by our house. She told me that it was hard to describe, but she just loved the feeling of riding fast all on her own.
These days the bicycle is collecting dust, but her circles are much much bigger and those glimpses as she rushes by our window have become infrequent. I hope she always remembers to wear a helmet.