to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go
– Mary Oliver
The first time my daughter attended pre-school a bubble of tears formed on her face as she said, “Momma, please don’t leave me. I want to stay with you.” I remember walking away as I watched the alligator tears stream down her face. Every part of me wanted to run back. Hug her tight. Hold her close. Let her know that Momma would always be with her. In her heart. My legs moved forward even though I felt the weight of letting go. But part of me felt a little relieved that she still needed me.
Almost two and half years have passed since that day. Now I am witnessing so much independence from my little girl. She wakes up in the morning and uses the restroom, brushes her teeth, and heads to the shower. She doesn’t need me to squeeze out the toothpaste or get her towel or help her get dressed. As soon as she finishes bathing, without prodding from me, she puts on her uniform for school. After combing her own hair and slipping on her socks, she announces she is ready for school. “I’m ready. Are you ready Momma?” I know that all these acts exhibit time’s movement and the gravity of the wholly ordinary rites of passage. The meaning of these moments are not lost on me. I tell her, “Yes, I am ready,” but inside I am trying to come to terms with how much she can do on her own without my help.
She often reminds how much she can accomplish on her own. Monkey bars are “easy-peasy” according to her. Her arms can swing forward and backward in seconds. When I watch her, she says, “After the last bar, I am going to let go. And I know how to land without it hurting.” The release is an easy transition for her. For me, it is fraught with an ambivalence of emotions. For every “mundane” chore or task she masters, she needs me less.
Today, she announced that she didn’t need me to accompany her on a playdate.
“I will be fine with Mrs. K (other girl’s mom). I am not going to cry. You can stay home Momma.”
“So you don’t need Momma anymore?”
“I need you Momma, but I can do things by myself.”
It’s the letting go. The release. And as much as she isn’t shedding tears, I am. And inside, I am saying, Don’t leave me. I am not ready to let go.