“But what if I break my arm again?” my five year-old daughter asked, her lower lip trembling. I knelt holding onto her bike and looked her right in the eyes. I knew how much she wanted to learn to ride. How often she felt left out when her friends pedaled by our house. Yet ever since she’d fallen off her bike and broken her arm, she’d been afraid.
“Oh honey,” I said. “I don’t think you’ll break another arm.”
“But I could, couldn’t I?”
“Yes,” I admitted, and found myself struggling for the right thing to say. At times like this, I wished I had a partner to turn to. Someone who might help find the right words to make my little girl’s problems disappear. But after a disastrous marriage and a painful divorce, I’d welcomed the hardships of being a single parent and had been adamant in telling anyone who tried to fix me up that I was terminally single.
“I don’t think I want to ride,” she said and got off her bike.
We walked away and sat down beside a tree.
“Don’t you want to ride with your friends?” I asked.
“And I thought you were hoping to start riding your bike to school next year,” I added.
“I was,” she said, her voice almost a quiver.
“You know, hon,” I said. “Most everything you do comes with risks. You could get a broken arm in a car wreck and then be afraid to ever ride in a car again. You could break your arm jumping rope. You could break your arm at gymnastics. Do you want to stop going to gymnastics?”
“No,” she said. And with a determined spirit, she stood up and agreed to try again. I held on to the back of her bike until she found the courage to say, “Let’s go!”
I spent the rest of the afternoon at the park watching a very brave little girl overcome a fear, and congratulating myself for being a self-sufficient single parent.
As we walked home, pushing the bike as we made our way along the sidewalk, she asked me about a conversation she’d overheard me having with my mother the night before.
“Why were you and grandma arguing last night?”
My mother was one of the many people who constantly tried to fix me up. How many times had I told her “no” to meeting the Mr. Perfect she picked out for me. She just knew Steve was the man for me.
“It’s nothing,” I told her.
She shrugged. “Grandma said she just wanted you to find someone to love.”
“What grandma wants is for some guy to break my heart again,” I snapped, angry that my mother had said anything about this to my daughter.
“You’re too young to understand,” I told her.
She was quiet for the next few minutes. Then she looked up and in a small voice gave me something to think about.
“So I guess love isn’t like a broken arm.”
Unable to answer, we walked the rest of the way in silence. When I got home, I called my mother and scolded her for talking about this to my daughter. Then I did what I’d seen my brave little girl do that very afternoon. I let go and agreed to meet Steve.
Steve was the man for me. We married less than a year later. It turned out mother and my daughter were right.