Letting Go

I think the hardest thing about being a parent is learning how to let go. It seems like it would be an easy thing, particularly since children tend to suck up a lot of time, effort, and energy. I remember, when my daughter was a tiny baby, there were so many things I looked forward to: the time when she could finally talk and tell me what was bothering or upsetting her … the time when diapers would be a distant memory … the time when she would finally eat only “regular” food … the time when she would be big enough to explore and interact with her surroundings … and on and on.

my daughter ... around 6 months old, perhapsBack then, when she was still tiny and relied on me for everything — when she, literally, couldn’t go anywhere without me — I thought about the future with a sort of misty-eyed fondness. I thought about how it would be so nice to have more free time. I thought about how it would be much less stressful, once she could tell me what was bothering her, as opposed to trying to interpret various cries of distress. I thought about how nice it would be once I no longer had to carry that heavy diaper bag around. I thought about how lovely it would be to save on the expense of baby food, once she started eating the same things the rest of us ate.

I thought about a lot of things.

my daughter's beautiful smile, ~ 6 years oldWhat I didn’t think about was how hard — how absolutely terrifying — it would be for me to let go. I didn’t realize each new adventure and experience would take her a little farther away from me, along her path toward becoming a teenager and, eventually, an adult. I didn’t think about how I was going to feel, for example, standing on the curb and watching her walk into school the first day of second grade: the first time she told me, “No, Mama. I can go by myself.” I didn’t realize how frightening it was to be the person left behind. Sometimes, I feel like I spent nine months working to bring her into this world, and I will spend the entire rest of her life fighting the urge to stuff her back inside my uterus. Because, once your kids are out there, they are out there. They are part of the world, and you can’t always be with them.

my daughter getting donutsToday, my daughter headed off to Philadelphia for a school field trip. She has been excited about this trip for months, and she was bubbling over with enthusiasm and eagerness this morning. This is the first time, since she started pre-school, that I have not gone as one of the chaperones. And, over the week or so leading up to this trip, I came to realize my biggest fears as a parent are letting go and not being there. Perhaps, they really are the same fear, just all wrapped around each other. I don’t know, but I do know it took a monumental effort for me to smile this morning, kiss my daughter good-bye, and drive away from the school. I looked back and saw her standing on the sidewalk in front of the school, chattering excitedly with her friends and teacher, and felt like some invisible hand had reached into my chest and wrapped my heart in a vice-like squeeze. If I had been alone, I might not have been able to leave. Luckily, my husband was driving, which meant I didn’t have the option of turning around to snatch her up and run for the safety of home.

my daughter with snowBut I have this to cling to:

As I was telling her good-bye, she whispered in my ear, “Don’t worry, Mama. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home tonight.”

And so I drove away feeling unsure and inadequate, but also knowing I don’t have to learn how to let go all at one time. For now, this is enough, and the rest will come. Baby steps, which will teach me how to walk before I have to know how to run.






10 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. Well done you.

    You did a good thing for yourself and for your daughter today. You told her that you trusted her, and you showed by your example that other people — like teachers and chaerones that aren’t you — can be trusted to take care of her.

    And you gave yourself a little bit of freedom today, the freedom NOT to be caretaker for a few hours. to be the only one responsible for the health and happiness of your little girl.

    I am happy for you that everything is going so well. Can’t wait to hear how the field trip went.

    • As always, you know just what to say … and what I need to hear. You amaze me, dear friend. Thank you so much for that and for your support.

      It hasn’t been an easy day. But it also hasn’t been a horrible day. I’m looking at this as progress. ^.~

  2. Its like living with a butterfly that just keeps morphing into a bigger, brighter, smarter more colourful butterfly right in front of one’s eyes. Some mornings I swear my child has grown overnight. On the brink of teenhood (my son is 12 and 11 months) I sooooo related to your post. I don’t want to be a “helicopter parent” but I don’t want to let something slip by me that is dangerous either. My son is going on a High School camp for TWO NIGHTS! day after tomorrow! Your post was very moving.

    • Oh my goodness! A butterfly — that’s the perfect way of describing it. Such a beautiful analogy.

      I have a bit to go before we “officially” hit the teen years, which is a good thing. I am not ready! I hope I’ll be ready (sort of, at least) by the time we get there. Good luck surviving the two-night camp. You can do it!! I am rooting for you. 😀

  3. Great post! My older two are twins and are in the same class and essentially always together. Thankfully, they always have someone there to comfort and watch each others back. I think that has always alleviated some of my mommy-fear from crib time to play time, when they aren’t beating on each other, they are thick as thieves. Now, the little one is quite resilient from trying to keep up with the olders – bounce for bounce. Its hard to raise them to be independent and not scare the crap out of them that every person they meet might be the boogeyman. Sounds like you did a good job today.

    • Thanks for reading, and for your kind comment. It sounds like you have your hands wonderfully full with your little (and not-so-little) ones! 😀

      In some ways, I think it might be easier if my daughter had a sibling or two. Because it wouldn’t feel like we (her dad and me) were all she had. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to have any more. It’s been hard, but I’ve mostly come to terms with the fact that this is the way things are meant to be for our family, even if it wasn’t something we planned or chose for ourselves.

      I could not agree more that it’s hard to walk that line between letting them learn to be independent and making them terrified of the world around them. It’s even harder when so much of this world terrifies me! >.O

      Thanks again!

  4. Being a Mom is like joining the Peace Corp…”the toughest job you’ll ever love.” She is beautiful!

    • Ha! I love that: “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” It’s perfect. We should put it on our Mom Recruitment Poster. Too bad someone else beat us to it. 😛 😀

      Thank you for the kind words regarding my daughter. I think she’s a keeper … then again, I’m pretty biased. Ha!

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