Luke walked by himself today – his first tentative steps. And as I clapped and cheered, I couldn't help but be a little sad too at his first halting steps to independence. This isn't the first time I've felt this way – proud and happy at my children's accomplishments, and a little sad at new evidence of their growing up.
There was the day I took Ashley to the first day of a new session of gymnastics only to learn she had been moved into the next class up – the one where she didn't need a parent to accompany her. I was sure my distractible, energetic child would never make it through class without me there to keep her on track. But as I watched from the observation area, she did fine without me.
And then this summer, I took her into her first day of camp, certain that this experience of being left in a room with strangers – even if only for a few hours – would be difficult. And it was – for me. After we met a couple of the counselors and put away her backpack and lunch, Ashley was off to explore with a very distracted wave goodbye.
Parenting is ultimately about preparing your children to make it in the world without you around. It is, as I am learning, an ongoing process of letting go.
On those days when both kids are clinging to me and demanding more time and energy than I feel I have at that particular moment, I think I'm ready to let go, let them grow up and be more independent. But then there are days like today, when one of them takes a step toward that more independent world.
For every time that I long for just a few grown up moments by myself, there is a time when Luke's chubby fingers grab my hand, when Ashley curls up in my lap and throws her arms fiercely around my neck, or when one of them snuggles against me as they fall asleep. And those make letting go one of the hardest parts of parenting.