LITTLE BY LITTLE, WE HAVE TO LET THEM GO

On the day I left for college, my mom didn’t cry. She is known for being stoic, but since I was her baby, I figured I would see at least a slight sheen of wetness if I looked at her eyes closely enough. As I gave her a big hug and pulled away, there were no tears. Nada. How could this possibly be? I wasn’t that difficult as a teenager!

I asked her about her completely dry tear ducts and she told me it was a good thing I was leaving.

Come again?!

She then went on to explain that one of her sincere hopes as a parent was to raise children who were independent and could thrive on their own. The fact that I was willing and able to leave home was a reason to celebrate. She one hundred percent believed in my ability to succeed as she gently pushed me out of the nest and into the next stage of life.

My oldest is six. And while there are still many years before he will be leaving the nest, I have thought often about what my mom expressed on that August day several years ago. I want the same for my own kids. I want them to be confident and strong and when the time comes for them to venture off on their own, I want to them to be able to fly because I have helped develop their wings.

My son had a cautious, shy personality from the start. When he was a toddler and I went to activities with other moms, he would cling to me almost the entire time. He never wanted to be too far away. Many hours were spent at the jump and bounce place with him sitting on my lap while I chatted with the other moms, their kids happily exploring the slides and bounce houses. I tried to convince him of all the fun he was missing out on, but he was content to just stay by my side. I honestly worried sometimes about how strong his attachment was and what the first day of Kindergarten would look like. I had visions of trying to walk out the door with him clinging to my leg as I tried to gently shake him off, the tears streaming down his face.

Over the past couple of years, he has blossomed into a completely different kid. He can still be a bit reserved in new social situations, but overall, he has become so much braver. Now he jumps right into new activities with hardly a look back at his mama. And while I am SO completely proud of his growth and willingness to try new things without me shadowing his every step, it also breaks my heart just a little bit. As his grip on me has softened, I find myself trying to hold on even tighter.

As I held his hand yesterday while walking into a summer sports camp, it really hit me that before too long, he will shake my hand away when I reach for his. There will come a time when I’m no longer “cool” and he will be begging me to just drop him off at the door instead of accompanying him inside. The thought of that brings a few tears to my eyes. (I did not inherit the non-crying gene from my mama.) But I also know that I can’t hold on too tightly. Part of raising kids is figuring out how to let go, little by little. (Even when they are ready before you are.) With each new stage and each new activity, his independence grows. It is a good and healthy thing. He is developing the wings that will one day help him soar. And that IS a reason to celebrate.

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