The title, To A Daughter Leaving Home, gives you great insight as to the deeper meaning of the poem. On the surface, the title may not seem that it relates directly to the poem itself. However, with further examination, you begin to see the connection between a daughter leaving home and a daughter learning to ride a bike without training wheels. The poem describes a parent, from a first person point of view, who is remembering when she taught her daughter to ride a bike without training wheels. As her daughter rides further and further, the mother runs closely behind her in case she may fall. The girl continues to ride, with joy, as the proud mother remains near, with equal excitement.
The poem’s meaning is, as I mentioned, revealed in the title. Pastan is comparing two different events to express the feelings experienced in the letting go of a daughter. The whole poem is a metaphor. The very last line of the poem is “goodbye,” magnifying one of her popular topics, loss. The narrator is saying goodbye to her daughter literally and metaphorically, as she rides away and is “leaving home.” We gather from the poem that the narrator relates her daughters coming of age to the loss of her daughter all together. This is the theme of the poem. While the tone is a sort of happy nostalgia, a hint of sadness is expressed. The narrator is obviously proud of her daughter. However, she is also saddened by the loss of her child and it’s apparent she is experiencing conflicting feelings. Although sadness is made out to be an underlying feeling, it is the more dominant of the two.