By Anthony Fleg, MD
D3F Circle of Friends and DCG DADvisory Team Member
EDITOR'S NOTE: A version of the following post was first published on Anthony's Writing to Heal blog on Tuesday, August 29, 2023.
“Dad, don’t make me do it.”
Our 5-year old had promised to try riding her bike, and I was trying to stand strong. But her tearful protest was making it hard not to back down. For a few months we had failed at getting her to be able to ride a bike without training wheels. “Why force her toward another failed attempt?” I asked myself.
After a few minutes of emotional tug-of-war, we got little Sihasin onto the bike.
She settled onto the bike seat.
Struggled to push off, but finally did.
Wobbled some more.
She reacted and steadied herself.
She again reacted and kept the bike from falling to the side.
She had figured it all out! She was riding a bike.
Tears of “don’t make me do this” replaced with “wow, I can do this!”
Daddy no longer feeling guilty, but now feeling a proud papa elation.
* * *
Two reflections for my fellow dads as I step back from the bike riding moment:
First, I think about the dilemma of being a coach and teacher and dad. The first two are more about imparting knowledge and skills, while being a dad throughout the process brings the love and an environment of safety to the equation. As much as Sihasin was struggling with balancing the bike, her dad (me!) was struggling with how to balance these distinct roles.
Second, a reflection on what my daughter’s wobbling that led to success means for us.
This week, we may feel like Sihasin when faced with a daunting challenge. We may not cry in protest, but we may wish we could.
I think about the dilemma of being a coach and teacher and dad. The first two are more about imparting knowledge and skills, while being a dad throughout the process brings the love and an environment of safety to the equation.
Maybe that is the exact moment where we are going to have the breakthrough, if we just push through the fear of failure. In fact, it might be helpful to stop and name what we are afraid of as a way of getting ourselves onto the bike to at least make an attempt.
And when the bike inevitably wobbles, trust that you can figure out how to react. Just like Sihasin. In fact, our failures have taught us how to be successful, even if we cannot quite see it yet.
Embrace the wobble.
Embrace the “don’t make me do this” voice in your head.
But similarly, embrace the voice telling you, “I can do this.”
Daddy on, my friends!
Anthony Fleg, MD, is a proud daddy of four, husband, son, and brother. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, he has called New Mexico home since 2008. He is a family physician and educator at the University of New Mexico's Department of Family and Community Medicine and College of Population Health. He's also a Coordinator/Co-Founder of the love-funded partnership, Native Health Initiative(NHI), and its Running Medicine program, both of which DCG's Daddy Appleseed Fund is a proud supporter. Follow Anthony’s Writing to Heal blog here. His book, Writing to Heal: A Pandemic Journey to Healing is available through Community Publishing.