Last night, Carolyn took one teensy little hands-free step. The first move to independence! Just now, Carolyn kept hold of my hand long enough to totter a couple steps away to something she wanted, then she grabbed another handhold and moved on. It seemed symbolic. We have these babies in our homes for some years, carrying them and their needs. Then, gradually, if we do our job right, they learn to walk, then run, on their own. They race off into life, not needing our hand-holding to keep them upright.
A couple parents with older children than I, in the context of other conversations, have intimated that I cannot now comprehend the difficulty and sense of loss that will accompany Carolyn leaving the nest. I know they are right. My relationship with my daughter is young; in the years to come, it will acquire many layers and facets that I can only imagine now.
Nevertheless, another part of me insists, "But this is the job." It is what we do, this pouring everything into another for 20 years so that they may leave us. While many enter a career for life, or for a specified time until they move up or out of their own accord, the job description of motherhood is this. Mothers--like missionaries, so it is said--work themselves out of a job.
There is a sense, of course, in which children always hold their parents' hands. Currently, when Carolyn is entranced with interests of her own, I'm still supposed to stay in the room. When I disappear, she is jerked from her play to the all-consuming question of "Where is Mommy?" Security is a necessary prerequisite for constructive risk-taking; my proximity allows her the freedom to pursue her own devices. Likewise, as she grows up, I want my steadfastness to be the anchor that allows her to explore. Because I am always the safe haven she can return to if things go badly, she need not worry about sticking her neck out a bit. And, by God's grace, it will be because of the compass and charts we give her that she finally leaves the harbor and sails straight on her own path.
It is right and good that Carolyn one day leave our home, whatever mourning that brings with it. Until then, I'll enjoy the time we have and her sweet dependence on us. Because last night, when she took that tiny first independent step? It was straight toward her daddy's waiting arms.