They placed you in my arms, and my world has never been the same.
My heart has never felt the same. Things shifted somewhere deep inside, rearranging themselves, changing me. I peered into your small face and looked with wonder at your tiny hands. I touched them, and your little hand closed around my finger and held it tightly. Already you were mine, and I was yours. We took you home, cared for you, played with you, and prayed for you. We never slept; sleeping just wasn’t your thing. We worried if you got the sniffles, had a fever, or cried too much. We may have hovered (just a little). But oh how you were loved. After a few months, I had to return to work part-time. I cried over this; I didn’t want to leave you. We were blessed that your grandparents lived close enough that they could keep you on the days I had to work. When that first morning came, it was cold outside. I wrapped a scarf around my neck, kissed your peaceful face, and then I walked away. I learned to let you go.
You’d been getting up on your hands and knees for a while, sitting there slowly rocking back and forth, trying to figure out your next move. I knew you were so close to crawling. I sat there, a few feet away and cheered you on. I rooted for you to grasp this milestone of independence and before long you did just that. That rocking turned into one hand moving forward and then one knee, and that was it. I saw your eyes light up with excitement when you realized you were no longer bound to one spot but could move freely. I was so proud of you. I called every grandparent and recorded it on video. In no time, you were proficient at this new skill. I would sit on the floor and encourage you to crawl to me. Those independent eyes would look into mine; you’d smile, then turn around and crawl the other way. And I let you crawl away. I learned to let you go.
You teetered around unsteadily using the sofa and chair to help with balance. You were learning to walk. At times I would hold both hands, and then just one, as you wobbled around the living room babbling and grinning. Then one day you let go of my hand, took a step by yourself, and then another. You looked back, realizing what you’d done. Your exuberant smile lit the room. It was then you lost your balance and plopped down, still smiling. Undeterred you pushed your way back to your feet, arms outstretched for balance, and took another step. I wanted to hold your hand, certain you would fall again. But I let you walk away. I learned to let you go.
A year and a half ago we moved several hours away from our home, family, and friends. We felt peace that it was the right thing to do; however, leaving is never easy. Your grandparents saw you almost every week. In addition to family, we had built strong friendships there, friendships that looked a lot like family. You were so loved there. So loved. And you loved these friends right back. All too soon, it was time to leave. It was time for me to explain to you that we were moving. That you wouldn’t see the ones you loved nearly as often, that we couldn’t stop by for a quick visit, throw a line in the pond, or laugh beside the bonfire. I had to help you walk away. I had to teach you to let go.
I put on a brave face for you today. We held hands as we walked the length of the hall. I watched you turning your head this way and that trying to take it all in. Occasionally you’d glance up at me with uncertainty dimming your normally bright eyes, and I would smile brightly enough for the both of us as if I could somehow infuse your face with some of my false cheeriness. “You’ve got this,” I said. “Sweet girl, you’re going to have an amazing first day of Kindergarten.” I hoped I was right. I was strong. I was solid. I was stoic. And then it was time to release your hand. I cheered you on silently, as I watched you walk away. I am still learning to let you go.
There is so much letting go left to do. I recognize that I’m still in the early stages of this journey that is “letting go.” I know there will continue to be transition after transition, each probably a bit harder than the last. I’ll watch you walk away to middle school and then high school. I’ll watch you walk away on that first date. I’ll watch you walk up the dormitory stairs at college. I’ll watch you walk across the stage. I’ll watch you walk down the aisle. Each time, I’ll cheer you on. Each time, I’ll burst with pride. And each time, my heart will break just a little as you break away from me just a little more. I will smile when you look my way and encourage you to walk away, and I will turn my head as the tears fall, as I continue to learn how to let you go.
I’ve beamed as you learned to crawl.
I’ve rejoiced as you learned to walk.
I’ll cheer you on as you begin to fly.
I’ll learn to let you go…
So that you, my precious child, can soar.