Monday, February 25, 2008

Holding on and letting go

When K crawls off into another room, usually with a quick backward glance and congenial smile, I feel hurt. I know I should be all for her newfound independence. Independence is a good thing, maybe a great thing. Still, I feel hurt.

Each time I got pregnant, I spent nine endless months waiting for our baby. We planned, imagined, organized. We educated ourselves on every aspect of parenthood we could get our grubby little hands on. Only I realize now that I should have been preparing myself for the real truth: they aren't our babies. They don't actually belong to us at all, not in the true sense of the word. We are caretakers, not owners. We are obligated to raise them in a safe, education, considerate fashion--still using everything we got--as we slowly but steadily relinquish our hold.

It's like the parent who holds the back edge of the bike seat, steadying his or her child as they gain confidence, speed, and ability, only to finally, with heart in throat, let go and watch them glide away. It was never our bike ride, never our trip at all.

Perhaps I'm more aware of these moments because K will likely be our last child, or maybe it's the experience of M's growth that makes me more in tune this time around. For whatever reason, these moments strike me ruthlessly: the crawl away, the push off, the turn from the breast. Wait, I think in a panic, we were doing something here. But no, the truth is she is doing something here. I'm just the hand at the back. Keep that hand on, and they'll never get anywhere. Keep that hand steady, loose but ready, and they can go as far as they dream. Who knew having a child would be so much more about what you never really have to begin with?

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