On an unusually warm and sunny day for February, my child and I enjoyed swinging together at the playground. She wore her most whimsical dress; I wished I’d warn anything cooler than what I’d chosen.
Swinging high, she inquired, “Mama, I’ve never swung in a dress like this one before–I feel something new!”
I assumed she felt, ahem, a draft in her dress.
Without hesitation, she added, “Yeah, it’s a whole new kind of happiness, swinging in such fancy clothes on such a lovely day.”
Here I’d been, thinking about her underwear showing when in fact, she was experiencing a new kind of joy. It was some type of revelation for her. She’d discovered the peace you find on the swings on a day like today.
Before I knew it, she was off and running through the adjacent sun-kissed field.
“I’ll race you, Mommy!” She trailed off as she darted away, temporarily (I assumed) leaving me in the proverbial dust.
I hopped off my swing and sprinted after her. The thing was, I couldn’t catch her this time. For the first time ever, I really couldn’t catch her.
Somehow, this “first” hit me differently than had many of her other milestones. When she was a baby, I knew there would be a first time she’d be able to crawl, then someday walk. I’d be there holding her hand, ready to catch her no matter what. She’d have a first time to talk; I’d be there with a loving response to whatever she’d say. She’d someday learn to color with a handful of crayons; then to write her own name; then to get herself dressed. In all those firsts, though, I’d be alongside her, cheering her on and ready to assist if she’d need me.
Of course, she’d need me. On some very primal level, I’d always counted on that.
Today, though, as I realized in this very physical manifestation of her running across the field, she could do this on her own. I couldn’t keep up if I’d wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to.
With the bittersweetness that only one who’s devoted years to raising a child could know, I watched in awe—and with immense gratitude—as her independence blossomed across the field.
This is how it’s supposed to happen, I suppose. These tiny moments catch us off guard. They poignantly remind us that we’ll need to let go someday. These moments make us immensely proud while we simultaneously long for the days when our little ones needed us just a little more.
One milestone at a time, sometimes with weeks, months, or years between them, we let go so that our children can learn to run alone. Through moments like these, they learn to handle life as it comes to them. They learn that they can do it even if we’re not always able to scoop them up and shower them with kisses.
Today, my child ran. And she ran. And she ran. With my heart right beside her, she ran.