‘He spotted his friends and let go. All that was left was a gap of air and space and the empty imprint of a little boy hand’
A mother's heart swells, breaks, and lurches a thousand times a day. Amanda Cassidy writes about the devastating joy of watching your children grow up before your eyes.
It was the tiniest, biggest thing. An almost imperceptible moment that marked, with crashing clarity, the moment your child ‘grows up.’
And it caught me completely off guard.
One moment my son’s small soft hand was curled around mine walking to school, like all the thousands of mornings we’d strolled these paths together. And the next it wasn’t.
As he spotted his pals, he quickly dropped mine. All that was left was a gap of air and space and the empty imprint of a little boy hand. But the magnitude of that moment toppled my heart sideways, my palm, suddenly bereft.
For eight years that hand has reached for me, drawn me close, clung on for dear life, pulled my hair, twirled my hair, reached up to be lifted, even pushed me away in anger. But it was always close by.
It was the anchor that replaced the umbilical cord – a physical link that was part of me. He was always there within reach, to soothe, to scold, to hold tight… until now.
You walk back home, a little devastated, and cry salty tears behind sunglasses because of the fleetingness and inevitably of it all.
I remembered the first day we stood outside this same school building. The day I told him he was amazing and brave and brilliant, and I peeled those panicked fingers off of mine and into the arms of a smiling stranger. I wanted to show him that we can trust the world – that when you jump, you might just fly.
I remembered our shared joy when I came back later that day and saw him waving proudly at me from the back of the lína, surprised at his own success. I did it, mummy, I was so brave.
Today was the first tiny pebble to roll in an avalanche of grown-upness.
Motherhood is a game of lost and found. You give your children the tools to walk out into the world alone, assured, safe – and then mourn silently as they drop your hand, embarrassed when they spot their friends. And you walk back home, a little devastated, and cry salty tears behind sunglasses for a bit because of the fleetingness and inevitably of it all.
It is the jolt of being reminded that they are not yours alone. These babies we grow and nurture and walk the floors with and whisper secrets to, they belong to the world. It is their world now.
Suddenly it is my job to fade slightly into the background noise. I’ve gone from the star of the show to the chorus girl, or maybe set designer. But whatever I am, today was the cue. Today was the first tiny pebble to roll in an avalanche of grown-upness.
It is bittersweet because this was always the plan. I have done everything to foster this beautiful, devastating independence. And I’m torn.
Of course, his face is still turned towards mine for squishy kisses (just not in front of his friends) but it is more of a passive receipt of love. Like everything with the emotionally complex job of raising babies into men and women, the lean into life is sometimes too slow, sometimes too quick.
Long days and short years, they say. But that exact moment they drop your hand is quite a visceral symbol of that shedding of a layer of their baby skin.
And so this morning, I left him with an equal mixture of pride and sadness. Happy for him, but feeling a little sorry for myself. His gain is my loss, and that’s really how it should be.
This almost-spring-dappled morning I glanced over my shoulder to watch him greet his friends, his little boy face at odds with his cool-dude demeanor, that stubborn cowlick forever needing patting down.
And there he was being the amazing and brave and brilliant person that I knew he’d become. And I reminded myself that love travels a lot further than arms and hands and tiny warm fingers.
And then me and my very empty hand walked bravely away home.
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