Home > Family, Love, Parenting > Who he is meant to be

Who he is meant to be

“Mommy, can I hug you?”

“Of course, sweetie. You know I love your hugs!”

“Can I go play with them?” he whispered in my ear, holding me tight.

“I think they’d like that,” I said, looking at the kids playing on a rug a few feet away.

My son pulled away. I wasn’t ready to let him go, but he was ready to go. He was ready, so I released him.

Three years earlier, I dropped him off at day care for the very first time. I held him on my lap in the backseat of my car, gazing at his tiny, perfect face and wondering how I could possibly hand him over to someone else. How I could abandon him for ten hours at a time, having never before been away from him for more than two or three anxiety-riddled hours.

I let him go then, and he was fine.

Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed, until three entire years had come and gone. I got used to handing my son off to his “Nana,” to the point I could barely believe I’d ever been distraught to leave him with her.

I grew used to entrusting his care to Nana, but not to others. At Li’l D’s third birthday party, one of his godmothers led him off to Rite-Aid on a supply retrieval mission. As they walked away, hand in hand, I watched and worried.

My friend Elsha saw my worry and reassured me, “Come on, you know T will break someone in half if they so much as look at him wrong!”

“I know,” I murmured. “I know he’s as safe as he can be.”

He came back to me, safe, sound and happier for a little extra time with his Auntie T. I grew a little stronger for having let go, and grateful to see he could and would be returned safely by different loving hands.

As he walked away from me, ready to make friends from strangers on his first day of preschool, I remembered that first day I’d entrusted his care to a then-stranger. I knew it would scarcely be easier to do so anew this day, no matter how sweet the teachers and his new peers.

He played by himself for a little while, moving blocks from one bin to another for several minutes before a girl about his size sat down next to him and offered him a puzzle.

“Do you want to play?” he asked her.

I turned to my fiancee, Anthony, and smiled. “I think that’s my cue to leave,” I whispered. “Let me know how it goes?”

I left, moving my body toward my office and leaving my heart happily immersed in a sea of Legos and new friends.

He is as safe as he can be, I told myself, dabbing my eyes with my jacket sleeves. He is happy.

I wish I could give my son perfect safety. I wish I could ensure he will never experience loss or suffering. I wish I could be there to witness his every victory. I wish so many things for him, but first and foremost I wish him the fortitude to become his own person, confident and compassionate in his actions and self.

I want to know he will be able to stand strong with or without me, even though that means I must sometimes walk away and let him be who he is without me.

His steps are small now, but they grow by the day. As he keeps on taking them, my wish for myself is that I remember:

He is not walking away from me, 
but toward who he is meant to be.

walking toward

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  1. January 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    He will become the strong, confident, caring young man as he broadens his adventures because you and his dad are there caring and supporting and letting him go. I keep trying to remember a Walt Whitman poem that is about a child expanding his circle every wider as he grows up–if i think of the title, I will let you know. Happy New Year!

    • January 2, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      If you think of the title, I’d love to know it! Apart from that, I thank you for the warmth and encouragement that emanate from this comment. Happy new year! ♥

  2. January 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Just lovely! And as you watch him walk, you can know that any sadness or trial will make him deep and rich in this life, and he has the added blessing of knowing he will always be able to look over his shoulder and find his mother there.

    • January 2, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      you can know that any sadness or trial will make him deep and rich in this life
      Yes! You express this so beautifully. As much as I wouldn’t want to relive certain of my past experiences, I am glad to have lived them, and where they’ve led me.

      Your last sentence made me sniffle. I will be there as often and long as possible, and when he can’t see me over his shoulder with his eyes anymore, I hope he’ll still know in his heart that I am there.

  3. January 2, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I remember those days. There were times it was SO hard to let go and let my babies grow up just a little bit more. You know how to follow your own instincts and you’re doing the right thing for your little boy. And he’ll grow up to be a good man.

    • January 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      Your comment recalls a memory that makes me smile. It was so hard for me to follow my instincts when Li’l D was an infant; I documented every. little. thing in a notebook I used to measure and attempt to determine whether I was doing things “right.” I took that notebook to visit a lactation consultant. My second or third trip to see her, she asked to see it and then commanded me to throw it in the trash. “Your baby is growing well and healthy. You need to let him be your guide, not that freakin’ notebook.” Motherhood was much more enjoyable after I tossed out that notebook and started listening. (There was a one- or two-week period where I had to get the urge to write out of my system, but I’m glad I toughed it out!) Hear, hear for listening to instinct!

  4. January 2, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Liebster award! Check out my blog for the details: littlestlovenest.wordpress.com. ♡

  5. January 2, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I am not a parent but have long believed that letting go would be one of the hardest things to do, and yet you do so with the grace and style I have grown to expect from you. Yes, it will make him a healthier, happier boy and later man but it doesn’t make it any easier. Congratulations.

    • January 4, 2013 at 5:36 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words. The second day was easier, and the third day easier still, so that now the hard part is trying to get him to come home with me. Oy! And yet, as he struggles, I think of something a coworker once said: “When they don’t want to come home, at least you know it’s because they’re doing something they love!” That makes it so much easier, although I suspect an ache will remain for some time.

  6. January 2, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Little tears and gentle smiles followed the lines of this post as I thought, ‘what a fortunate son, to have Deb and Anthony’.

    Growing up with cushions of love to fall into as he learns to be. You will have many more moments like this and he will have many more as well.

    Can I hug you?

    • January 4, 2013 at 5:42 am

      I got something in both my eyes reading your comment, especially this: Growing up with cushions of love to fall into as he learns to be. I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday where I had to answer some medical history questions for an assistant. When I told her that I couldn’t confidently answer about either my mom’s or dad’s histories, she said it made her sad to hear things like that. I smiled and said, “The good news is, my son and his cousins are never going to know what that’s like.” Such a sweet thought, that.

      I would lovelovelove a hug. And, in fact, I get a rush of warmth just imagining it. (Still, I’m gonna hold out hope for a real arm-and-arm hug someday!)

  7. January 3, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Wow, this is so beautiful and heartfelt. I remember walking with my son to 1st grade once and I watched him on the playground before turning around and heading off. I thought wow, that is my kid. But he is his own being, his own self. Now he is a high school senior looking at colleges and definetly his own self. He’s a good kid. They grow up to fast. Its sad. The caption above the picture is so true. Very well thought out. Thanks for sharing.

    • January 4, 2013 at 5:44 am

      The words “Now he is a high school senior” fill me with such a sense of wonder! I’m glad I’ve written this post, so I can share it with him–if he’s interested–and he can maybe see a little of the joy I had watching him grow.

  8. January 3, 2013 at 6:46 am

    This post hits close to home. My son started pre-K this past August. It was so hard to drop him off, even though I had been taking him to daycare for four years. We got there and he was just a little apprehensive. I thought to myself “yes! He’d rather stay with his mommy!!” even though I knew he needed to go. Next thing I know, he wrapped his arms around my neck and then pulled away and said, “It’s okay mommy. You can go now. I don’t need you here. I’ll see you at home later. I love you!” and off he went to play with his new friends. Him telling me that he “didn’t need me there” kind of broke my heart, but as the days passed, I realized that was a big deal for him. He was at school, he was ready to be his own person. Separate from his mommy. That’s exactly how it should be, no matter how hard it is for a mommy.

  9. January 3, 2013 at 6:55 am

    Happy New Year Dark Moon! Just wanted you to know that this post came at the right time. My son Nate had his first day of preschool today. He ran off to greet the teacher and kids and it was like my husband and I weren’t even there. I am sitting here worrying that he will have a melt down or be upset. I am counting down the minutes til I can snatch him up and give him hugs and kisses and just have his bright face and laughter fill the house. The only time I have been without him is when we were house hunting and it was for 5 days. I live this post and its hitting very close to home for me. I am so thankful we have little ones so clise in age as we are experiencing everything together so to speak. Hope you have a wonderful day.

  10. minisculegiants
    January 3, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Breaks my heart in all the right ways!

  11. January 3, 2013 at 8:26 am

    I still remember how hard I cried after watching my daughter walk to the school bus for kindergarten 30 years ago. How hard it is to let go. Though she is 37 years old with 17 year old twin daughters of her own, I still find it hard to “let go” of her sometimes. Thus it shall ever be.

  12. January 3, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Your last words say it all……perfectly 🙂

  13. January 3, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I still watch Maycee most days walk all the way to the door of the Boys and Girls Club as she heads there to stay while I work during her winter break from school. We wave about 5 times every few steps she takes. It is still the hardest thing for me to watch her go. It’s different when she’s attending school, as all kids have to do that, but the daycare situation, the leaving her somewhere else because I don’t have the ability to let her stay home and be with me is still very, very hard for me. And, yet, it is easier for her as she is older. She walks with confidence to the door, and when I pick her up usually there are positive and fun stories to be heard about her day. She is (for the most part) safe there, I know, but it just doesn’t compare to how much safer she feels to me when she’s next to my side. XOXO-Kasey

  14. January 3, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    ….it was 21 years ago for one and 15 years ago for the other when I witnessed that walk….I’d forgotten the reason and you have reminded me. Thank you.

    You know, at 24 and 18 they still continue to walk forward and away from me (geez, that still causes a lump in my throat to admit) and toward who they are still trying to become.

    Thank you….I see them differently, now…younger, sweeter, stronger. Beautiful share<3

  15. January 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    How beautiful you write. Poignant post. Every day I have similar thoughts and feelings about my little one. She’s 4. What will she become? This really made me sad and hopeful at the same time.

  16. January 4, 2013 at 3:30 am

    Oh, Deb. I have chills reading this, especially your last line. Being a mom is full of so many mixed emotions, love, hope, fear. I wish I could tell you this fades away the older they get, but it never does. My son is ten and I still tear up sometimes when he walks up to the school!

  17. Katrina Espinoza
    January 4, 2013 at 6:07 am

    That was such a sweet post written for your baby, well not so much a baby, but always your baby. I have so much of your reading to catch up on! Seeing the love you have for him makes me so happy. Every kids deserves that kind of love!

  18. January 4, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Just remember, “the longest journey starts with a single step”. That works for BOTH of you. (Actually I was going to use the old “if you love something, set it free”, but then I realised I only knew the version that … well, just go with that first thing I said! 😉 )

  19. June 8, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Such sweet memories. I’ve always been proud of Jack’s strong desire to reach out to others and be friends with everyone. It’s certainly a tough balance as he grew older, don’t squash that genuine open heart yet try to instill a sense of self-preservation when it comes to bullies, dangers, and those who plain take advantage of your good nature. Nowadays, it’s a balance of involvement. I love being important to him – who doesn’t love that? – but we are so close to the time when he absolutely must be able to navigate the world “on his own” that I try to walk away myself. That’s hard. Not because it’s hard for me to do, but because I want to make sure I do it in a manner that he doesn’t realize it, so he views it as me enabling and empowering him, not abandoning him.

  20. August 1, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I saw exerts of your post on Hands Free Revolution. Had to read the whole thing. I am right now trying to let go. My 5 month will have to go to daycare. It is breaking my heart every day. Will she be safe!? Will they comfort her?! I want to just keep her by my side and never let go. Glad to hear your journey.

    • August 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Carolina, have you heard of the book Protecting the Gift? It’s a fantastic book for parents in all aspects of life, but especially useful in facing questions of safety and even comfort. I hadn’t read it when I wrote this post, but what I took away from it (as well as, you know, experience with Li’l D!) will hopefully make walking this walk with any future children a little easier. I’m rooting for you and your daughter as you move toward that first day. The first few days are so rough, but there’s amazing strength that grows on both sides as a result. ♥

  21. Wendy Burr
    August 1, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Wow, Deb. That is beautiful!

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