The hanging on and letting go of parenting

“Mommy, I just want to snuggle with you,” he says, those suddenly saucer-big eyes looking up at me in the mirror, worry crease in his brow. We have 15 minutes to get out the door and I know what this is about.

“Oh honey, are you feeling anxious about school?” “No, my tummy just doesn’t feel good.” “Oh baby, when I’m nervous my tummy feels funny too.” “No, it just hurts and I don’t wanna go to school. I just wanna stay here with you.”

Oh baby, I know that feeling, I know that ache. I ache with him, I pull him in, whisper grace.  I let it wash over me, let it feel good that he needs me, and then we go anyway, and he walks in to school anyway, and he’s clingy but ready, he hangs on but then lets go. And I do, too. I hang on, then I let go.

It’s why I swallowed that lump in my throat all the way home on the first day.

It’s why I linger in front of the school for a minute after they’ve walked in already. It’s why I have to snap myself into the present moment again, because I’m still hanging on, just wishing I could pause, just a second, just another moment longer please.

– – –

I’m not the type of mom that wishes for what we had, or wants them to stay young forever. This parenting in young childhood thing is crazy exhausting and leaves you wrung-out empty at the end of the day. I look forward to every new phase, to the next chapter, to moving along, to seeing what’s next.

But when the page turns, it hurts a little. Because I’m learning the art of letting them go.

Your child runs to the front of the line or they hang back, wary. She clings to you through the front door and you have to leave her in tears, and you hope it will get better but then your heart will ache a little when she doesn’t need you so desperately. He walks to his peers but then returns to you, anxious and just wanting your hand again while he can hold it, just until the bell rings, just for two more minutes. You’re glad to give it, but then you’re glad to see him let go, but then you feel the ache too.

And aren’t we all learning together, us with our kids, the holding on and the letting go? Even though I feel like I’m faltering at it myself, he’s looking at me, he needs to know I’m OK so he can be OK.

In adoption, we have to be intentional about teaching our children to need us, because it’s not automatic the way it is when it’s built since before birth. We teach them dependence, need, trust, connection. And then later but also at the same time, when they still seem so young, we start teaching them independence, separation, confidence to be on their own, trust that we’re always there and they can venture out into the big wide world.

So on the first day of school, I’m relieved but I’m longing. I’m ready but I’m not. I’m teaching them to let go, but I’m still learning it myself.


How did you feel on the first day of school? Do you want to hang on, and how do you know when it’s right and good to let go?

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2 comments on “The hanging on and letting go of parenting

  1. My oldest started kindergarten this week. This piece is a beautiful description of how I am feeling, both ready for the future and sad to let go of the past. Thank you for writing & sharing your heart.

    • Yes, Steph! It’s especially poignant for those firsts and lasts. My oldest runs to her friends and doesn’t look back, and my youngest still comes home with me, so a part of me is grateful — glad that I still have one at home, happy that I have a little buddy to hang out with me. When it’s time for him to go, oh my.

      Hugs to you on the first week of school! xo