First Day: The Holding and the Letting Go
For months we’ve been talking about this. This thing is coming. This change. When all the baby wears off and all that’s left is the kid, the child. All those years that felt eternal. And suddenly–poof–he jumps on his bike and rides ahead of you while you run to keep up.
You take Sunday off from the book. You force your brain to stop thinking about what needs to be done and you do all the Home Things, making lunches after church and talking about the week. That’s when he realizes it’s happening tomorrow. This change. This new thing. How many times had you told him, visited the school? How many practice runs? But when he hears it, when it clicks in his mind, he panics. He cries, gasping his breaths and you hold him on the kitchen floor. You don’t want this either. You don’t want it to change. It is always changing. Later, you push the stroller beside the tiniest one on his balance bike. Toddler pace. When you arrive at Golden Gate Park, there are your son and husband, talking it out. We were all five years old once. We were all afraid once. It’s what we do with the fear that determines so much of who we become.
Your husband comes out of his bedroom–the night before–and his eyes are weepy. You hug him in the kitchen and you both cry. How did this happen? How did he grow up? It was not fast. They all say it goes fast. But that wasn’t the feeling. It was its impermanence. Every moment never lasts. The baby changes. And for every new thing gained, another is lost.
I wrote that in my book. I wrote it on his second birthday. How I felt like since the moment he came from my body, I’d been asked to give up more and more of him.
That’s what this was. It was another offering. Another act of remembering what’s real, what’s true. His life is not mine to hold. Every day, I give up more. Every day, he moves toward God.
Pancakes for breakfast and already he has a hair combing ritual. He wore his coolest pink shirt. He is his father’s son. And when we stood outside on the city sidewalk, holding the sign, he was lit bright. Ready for adventure.
Who doesn’t long for their child to be ready? To be hopeful and vulnerable? To carry possibility inside like a pearl, even as he enters a world that may break it, that hope?
I was breathing it out: that feeling of loss, that expectancy. To love a child is to always lose and to always gain, to work toward the shaping of a future man or woman, an adult who will one day leave the child behind.
And by the time the child is grown, you’ve given and lost until you’ve breathed its rhythm as God breathes our lives. Sunrise, Sunset. First day of school. Last day of school. And all the holding and letting go in-between.