Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Letting go of your child’s hand

I don’t think there is a mother alive who has not dreaded the moment when we have to let go of our children. We may joke about us looking forward to the day they start school especially when they are boisterous five year olds full of energy from dawn till dusk, but the reality is the moment you let go of their hand outside the school gate and walk away – the feeling of loss is overwhelming. I for one walked away with a brave face but cried buckets full with my first two boys – with my third and fourth I was in tears just buying their school uniforms!
Until that moment you have been the main influence on their lives, the centre of their universe and now you have to move over on your pedestal to make room for Miss Archibald or Auntie Sylvia or some other female who they will listen to and learn from and whose name they will often call you in the first few months. It’s the hardest lesson in sharing that I think we learn but it’s part of motherhood and all good moms have to learn to let go trusting that their young will return and holding them in their hearts till you can hold their hands again.
This Christmas we have watched a wagtail build a nest in our stoep among some artificial ivy. She took such care with the building of the nest using only the finest of materials and, as it was Christmas, there are a few strands of glittery tinsel in there to make it prettier. She laid 3 eggs and patiently waited for them to hatch and has been rewarded with three baby birds who she has fed diligently and lovingly. This weekend she has been teaching them to fly and horror of horrors one flew into our lounge – the mother’s distress was awful to witness – she knew it wasn’t time to let go – that the baby still needed her. Last night we watched her protect them from a savage shrike that was dive-bombing them in the garden – she fearlessly ran him off. Again she knows they are not ready to stand on their own two feet. When the time is right though and they can fend for themselves, she will watch them fly away as we must do.
The school gate is only the start, as your children get older you have to let go of them time and time again, school camps, sports tours, gap years and work and travel opportunities , and each time that same feeling is there as you see them walk away confident and ready for the world. Teach them to let go - remember the harder it is for you the harder you make it for them –release their hand first.

I reminded myself as my boys set off to conquer the world that it’s only the optimistic and confident that have the ability to do that and that I contributed to those attributes in my children and that is evidence that I have done a good job as a parent – a mother. I have taught them to stand on their own two feet and fly well – just like that mother bird.
The most wonderful thing is that they always find their way home too and that the human heart has the capacity to love many - as their mother you will always be their first love - the one who gave them wings. As for being on a pedestal, even though it’s very comfortable viewing platform it’s as much a prison as any small, confined space and motherhood is all consuming giving you little time to be you.
As you let go of your child’s hand this week be reassured that they will return. Be sure to fill the space that they leave with ‘me time’ – it’s your reward for a job well done.


  1. You have finally confirmed what I have thought all along. I am a freak. When my kiddies started I felt proud but didn't cry not once, before, during or after. HELP ME!

  2. Sam I know you are a fabulous mom so I think that you must have felt a twinge of regret - maybe you are saving it for the biggie - when they fly the nest!!!

  3. As we're at the beginning of the teenage years with J, I'm now realising how important it is to appreciate the time we spend together now and look forward to the time he and E can confidently stride out into the world. I'll just have to cheer G up!