Letting Go

I remember the first time you grabbed my thumb with fierce but impossibly tiny fingers. You held on as if you’d never let go.

After that, you grabbed at everything. Toys and teething rings, computer cords, cats’ fur, my hair. Let go, baby, I’d say gently, unclenching your little hands from their vice grip.

Soon those haphazard fingers became deliberate tools, scrawling words with backwards letters, plunking out music of sorts, and painting scenes in need of deciphering. You held my hand for safety and security, pulling me toward balloons and butterflies. Don’t let go! I warned as you dragged me across busy streets and into your future.

We arrive too quickly. You announce the end of training wheels. I place one hand on the bike seat and one on your shoulder. You wobble and panic, so I tighten my grip. Don’t let go! you plead. Not til you’re ready, I promise.

You’re afraid when I start to push, but I tell you that you have to move forward in order to learn. You grip the handlebars with white knuckles, but soon find your balance. Okay, you tell me. You can let go, Mom. I let go, and you fly.

Years pass. The skill of your hands catches up to the wonder of your mind as lengthening fingers become instruments of ingenuity. You take my hand to pull me toward your latest creation, and I am struck by how it feels. This is not the instinctual grasp of a growing child, but the intentional grip of a whole human.

I don’t notice that I’m holding on too long. You laugh gently. You can let go, Mom. The air feels cold against my palm.

We walk together after dinner and talk about things to come. My fingers brush against yours, and I realize how long it’s been. I hesitate momentarily before grasping your hand. It’s strong, capable, the same size as my own, but smoother. And as you lean your head on my shoulder, I know where we are.

Those tiny hands that held my thumb now do entire loads of laundry and make pancakes from scratch. Those once-haphazard fingers now fly expertly across keyboards and canvases, typing deep thoughts, making actual music, painting real pictures.

You still need me, of course, but you don’t need my hands to hold you steady and keep you safe. You untangle your own knots, bandage your own wounds, write your own stories, create your own beauty.

I slow down a bit as our house comes into view. I tighten my grip on your hand, and you don’t pull away. A message passes silently between us. Don’t let go. Not yet.  But we can both feel it. The time is coming.

Time for you to build your own life.

Time for you to hold other hands.

Time for both of us to let go.

Let go, baby.

You can let go, Mom.

I squeeze your hand once more.

You first.


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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 28

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  2. I’m weepy now! At least my 17-year-old knows me well enough by now not to worry at why his mom has tears rolling down her cheeks.

  3. Absolutely spot on!! It happens with grandchildren, too! We are given the gift of love and joy, appreciation and wonder, pain and awe – with our children – and grands! Letting go IS the hardest because it’s all so amazing to see the world through each of their unique “eyes”! I praise God for the experiences and joys! It would not be so painful without experiencing those as well!! Motherhood! Best job in the world!

  4. I am in full on letting go mode…with all 3, prematurely approaching empty nesting because of the love of experience and this world we have always espoused. I wasn’t prepared for the emotion that evoked either, especially first thing …maybe you need a warning label :)…but so beautifully and accurately wrtten. Good parenting is based on this sometimes extremely hard but unselfish act.

  5. I never knew a love like this, that makes me so happy, could hurt at the same time. I once met a mom in the grocery store, who had teenagers, staring at me with my toddlers because she said she missed those days so much. I cried the whole way home.

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