By Jennifer McAlister

My legs could barely keep up as I ran alongside my six-year old grandson as he was learning to ride his bike for the first time. I had a death grip on the back of his shirt, determined to not let him fall. Everything within me wanted to shield him from the pain I knew the pavement would bring. All was well until I heard my husband yelling at me,

“Let him go!”

What kind of crazy talk was that? If I let him go, he would fall but if I chose to notlet him go, I would fall. You can only keep up with a bike for so long.

Assuming I didn’t hear him the first time (I did but my selective hearing was engaged and operating at full capacity), he yelled it again.

“Let him go!”

Now he was irritating me.  Why would I let him go if I had the power to prevent a painful experience?

“Let him go!”

He was persistent in his command, I’ll  give him that. I didn’t agree with him, but I did realize that he loves Jace as much as I do, so if he truly believed I should let him go, it had to be in his best interest.  As much as it hurt to do, I let Jace go. When I did, he took off down the road screaming with joy,

“I’m doing it Mimi, I’m doing it!”

Why would I let him go if I had the power to prevent a painful experience?

The joy of accomplishing this on his own was overwhelming for him as he giggled with glee. His joy was contagious and I couldn’t help but join along and celebrate with him.  Wonder of all wonders, he didn’t need me to hold him up and he was riding without training wheels, flying down the road.

“This is so fun!” he shouted.

Then…..Boom! Crash! Tears.

I knew it.

“Ouch! Mimi, it hurts!”

The tears were flowing as I ran to pick him up. I knew I shouldn’t have let him go. The evidence of the blood on his knees was proof of it. I kissed his skinned knees and asked if he wanted to go home.

“No. I want to ride my bike” he said.

“But didn’t it hurt?” I asked him.

“Yes, but I like riding my bike.”

So, I picked him up. Dusted him off. And we tried it again.

That night I went home and (you can’t tell me this was a coincidence) a song by Garth Brooks came on the radio and these were the lyrics…

“You can cry for ’em

Live and die for ’em

You can help them find their wings

But you can’t fly for ’em

‘Cause if they’re not free to fall

Then they’re not free at all

And though you just can’t

Bear the thought of letting go

You pick ’em up, you dust ’em off

You send ’em on down the road


You can cry for ’em

Live and die for ’em

And even though it’s gonna break your heart

You let ’em go. You pick ’em up, you dust ’em off

You hold ’em close and you pray a lot

You send ’em on down the road


I started crying when I heard this. Was it because Jace didn’t need me? No. Teaching kids to ride bikes is the easy part. It gets harder the older they get…

My youngest daughter had just recently left for college and I knew God was speaking to me through this experience with Jace. Letting your children go when they leave the nest hurts.  You want to shield them from the pain you know the world will bring. I didn’t want her to face the hard pavement of life. If I had the ability to do prevent this, why wouldn’t I?  But deep in my heart my Heavenly Father was lovingly shouting at me,

“Let her go.”

I guess He understands more than anyone that if we aren’t free to fall, we aren’t free at all.

When our children (young or old) make mistakes, that is part of learning and growing. When I was trying to prevent little Jace from the pain of falling,  I was stunting his ability to ride his bike because he was pulled to the left as I held on to his shirt. He couldn’t hold his bike up on his own while I was holding on to him. He needed to do this on his own.

When our children fall,  it isn’t always a reflection of our parenting. Falling down is part of the process. We need to teach our children that falling down is okay but staying down isn’t. It may take some longer than others to get this, but as parents, we do like our Father in Heaven does for us.

We pick ’em up. We dust ‘ em off and we send ’em on down the road.

Cause if we aren’t free to fall, we aren’t free at all.