A few days ago, my baby strapped on her backpack, laced up her shoes, and headed off to kindergarten. She was so ready, and that made one of us. I’m not sure if I’m relieved to finally have some time to myself, or if I’m just terribly sad.
When Nora was a newborn and her older sister, Lucy, was a toddler, I remember the feeling of merely trying to survive each day. Both girls were so little and helpless back then and needed me to change diapers, hold them, cut up their food and make sure they didn’t try to swallow spare change. It’s wonderful to be needed, but it’s also exhausting (can I get an “amen?”).
Right before Nora turned one, she would hold onto one finger of each of my hands as she tried to walk. When she let go, her knees would inevitably buckle and she’d fall down on the carpet like an uncoordinated sumo wrestler. I would pick up her chubby little self, and we would try again.
Then one day, just like that, my baby started to walk on her own. She didn’t need to hold my hands anymore. It was a metaphorical and literal step toward independence, and my heart simultaneously swelled with pride and broke a little.
I take comfort in the fact that now when Nora reaches for my hand, it’s not because she needs to, it’s because she wants to. That simple act is beautiful and profound.
I think that’s what parenting is: holding our children’s hands until they learn they’re strong enough to steady themselves. It’s preparing a solid runway so they can eventually take off and fly on their own. The hardest part for us parents is the letting go.
To all the moms out there who are sending kids off to kindergarten, college, honeymoons or other grand adventures; thank you for paving the runway. Thank you for being a steady set of hands, permanent cheerleader and snack-provider. And though your diaper-changing days might be done (for the next decade or so) and you might not feel as needed as you once were, you can know in your heart that you will always be a safe place for your children to land.