I was the kind of mom that hovered over when someone held my baby. Is she fussing? She might be hungry. I think her paci is going to fall out. Here, I will just take her.
It took me a good while to recognize and embrace the notion that my child was her very own person–no room for possession or ownership on my part (or anyone else’s for that matter). Our instinct is to be territorial over our children. Mine. Mine. Mine. Made it myself.
For a long time, I lived in great fear that I would somehow be separated from her. If I even paused too long on this thought, I would get very anxious and upset. I remember drawing great solace from Casey Wiegand’s post about “open hands“. She expressed a lot of the same things I was feeling–that no one could love my baby as much or provide in the way that I did. The quote she included at the end –“hold everything with open hands”–became a daily mantra for me.
Parenting is a slow, subtle release. There are tiny firsts and final lasts that go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day that accumulate into a mountain of growth until the entire landscape of childhood stretches behind you like a scenic reminder of all of the places you’ve been. The fear of being replaced becomes the fear of letting go.
I started to write this post about co-parenting. About how hard it is to hold our children with open hands when it means passing them off to people we can no longer make eye contact with. This was all spurred by prepping my daughter for her father-daughter dance. I curled her hair, I swiped a hint of mascara on her lashes and I sent her out the door–with her dad. And it hurt. I have sent her out that door with her dad so many times that you would think it would barely register. And most times, it doesn’t.
But tonight, it was harder. However, I don’t think tonight’s pain unique to me as a co-parenting mama. I think it happens to us all. Eventually, you’re standing in the driveway waving with a big smile on your face–have fun honey! Don’t wrinkle your dress! Be kind!–and inside you’re reminding yourself…”Open hands. Open hands”.
The thing held too tightly is ultimately destroyed. It is our job to let the light in — the sainthood that is a preschool teacher, friendships with elementary best friends, a special bond with the cool aunt– it is all so necessary and blessed. But oh, its so hard. My baby. Mine. Mine. Mine. Made her myself. I want to keep her under my wing, snuggled up with the blankie she just can’t quit and her Kindle glowing like a beacon before bedtime. I want to take her to the dance.
It’s hard–but its also so beautiful. When I see her yoga poses–taught by the Yoga Club instructor who is “literally the coolest!” and the encouraging feedback from her incredible teacher–Austen, you’re brilliant!–scrawled across a test…I realize that open hands foster happy kids.
I would be remiss if I acted like I totally have this down. Now would be a good time to admit I volunteered to sell tickets at the dance tonight. Observing…err…open hands. I kept my distance, did my job. But I couldn’t help peering into the gym as I made my way out–the music blaring, the lights twinkling. I saw my girl, linked hand in hand, with her best friends. Her hair thrown back and her curls bouncing. And then she opened her hands. She let go of her friends and she danced and danced and I thought to myself…mine. mine. mine. Made her myself.