Letting Go

August 18, 2010 | 28 comments

She lay in the crook of my arm, wrapped in fleece and the scent of pink baby lotion. Her fingers — wrinkly from 37 weeks in a womb — wound tightly around one of mine. She gripped my heart, and I held on hard.

I marveled at how tightly a five-pound human could grasp hold of her mama.

But I knew the grip of fingers would loosen over time.

And they did.


She grew bigger, blew out the single candle on the frosted cake. That day, she borrowed her mama’s balance. She grabbed both of my hands, and I hovered over top of her while she wobbled, bow-legged, across the living room. I hoped that soon, she would let go and walk on her own.

And she did.


She ran.

And I chased hard to keep up. But most times, she still wore me like protective armor. When she got scared of the store clerks and old church ladies who wanted to pinch her cheeks, she knew whose knees to crouch behind.

I knew she’d step out from behind her mama-shield someday soon.

She did.


I flipped pages on a calendar
Earth spun ’round,
and days that seemed to crawl
turned into years that

And the little girl let go of the finger and moved out from behind her mama’s pant-legs and stopped reaching for the hand of security.

She grew big, and she let go — just like they all said she would.

Because she had to learn to stand on her own.

So did I.


Letting go hurts.

I reached for her hand, to guide her across the parking lot to the glass doors of the movie theater.

“Mom … You don’t have to hold my hand all the time,” she said, and jerked her hand away. “I can walk on my own.”

The corners of my mouth drooped, heavy with rejection.

“Ma-ahhhhm,” she said, and her words wore a weight of their own — part guilt, part independence. “I’m big enough, OK?”

“I know, I know,” I sighed, shoving sorrow deep.

And she shoved balled fists into pockets of plaid shorts. She walked on ahead of me.

And I behind.


The other day, I went outside to test a new kite. And hard as I could, I couldn’t get that kite to soar.

I ran with it a while, and wished it higher and higher, until it caught a gust. The more string I let out, the higher it soared.

When I dropped the string, it fell fast and hard.


I’m letting string out now, letting her soar more.

But I haven’t let go entirely. They say you never will.

I’m learning that the thing about raising a girl is this: Even when she flies, she’ll be looking back from time to time to see if you’re still there, holding on to keep things steady when the wind blows hard.

So I won’t take the hand away. Even though she doesn’t know it, I’m holding on. And one day, she’ll need to hold on, too.


She came to me today, and needed a hand.

I had one to give.

Photo: We held hands today.

holy experience

Most Wednesdays, I join Ann Voskamp as we consider spiritual practices that draw us nearer to the heart of God. Today, we are talking in community about the spiritual practice of parenting.

by | August 18, 2010 | 28 comments


  1. Bina

    As a mom to five little ones who have also let go of my hand because they are "big enough"…my eyes misted over as my heart cleaves to the moments when they NEEDED me all while rejoicing over the people they are becoming.

    Beautiful pic…

  2. Wendy Paine Miller

    As a mom of three girls I absolutely loved this. I can just see them turning back to look–to check.
    ~ Wendy

  3. deb

    you know I know this.
    such truth you write always Jennifer.

  4. Colleen

    Beautiful! Love that imagery. And I'm hoping my boys need that string too! 🙂

  5. A Simple Country Girl

    Oh stop. I don't want tears this early in the day.

    And being the mom to a boy, the letting go starts earlier…as soon as they chase after daddy, wanting to soar like him. I cut the apron strings, but I am always gonna keep a piece of that kite string in my heart's pocket.

    Thank for this today. What a gift.


  6. isumom

    I should know better than to read what you write when I am at work…tears are embarrassing in front of my co-workers. I too have let the string go out farther and farther, so far in fact that tomorrow my middle baby is driving to live 8 hours away from me. But I know she will be back, just like my older baby (boys need strings too) and my youngest baby…and just like I turn around to look at my mom to make sure she is still there for me. Beautiful words and perfect timing…thank you Jennifer 🙂

  7. LisaShaw

    Oh this touched me as a Mom to two girls and Grandma to two grand girls! Thanks for sharing.


  8. Connie Mace

    Bittersweet elixir…the pain of letting go mixed with the joy of seeing them stand strong and tall…thank you for sharing

  9. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Cassandra — Biscuit weather. That was a great post. You know this feeling well.

    isumom — And I thought it was hard sending the youngest off to kindergarten! Eight hours away? Wow. … And yes, I still look back for my mom, too. We always will, won't we?

  10. Deidra

    You know my kids are grown and still I try to hold them tight at all of the wrong times…

  11. Sarah

    LOVE this. As mama to a 7-months beautiful girl, it's good to know I won't always get to/have to hold so tight. Thank you!

  12. Debra

    This so speaks to me. I have beautiful daughter … 8 years old, 10 years old, 8 months old. So precious! Such gifts.

  13. lynnrush

    Touching. Loved this piece!

  14. jasonS

    It's amazing how experiences common to so many can be so beautifully expressed as they're explored. Thanks Jennifer for exploring. This added some joy to my day.

  15. Lisa notes...

    That's so beautiful, the words and the photo. It's so hard letting go of our kids. I'm still in between holding on and letting go.

  16. patty

    ((hugs)) love you…patty

  17. Sara

    As always, you use your words to soak my day. I still have young ones asking to hold my hand, even racing for their favorite one. One day soon, I will cherish these memories as I continue to sharpen my arrows to make an impact on their generation.

    happy day,

  18. lynnmosher

    So sweet. So beautiful. I loved it. I've let go of three, two boys and one girl (the baby). I miss my girl's tea parties and hand-holding.

    They're all too old to hold my hand (41, 37, 34). The next time they hold my hand I'll probably be 80 and they'll be helping me cross the street! {sigh} I guess I'll just have to wait!

  19. Duane Scott

    You have such a good heart.

  20. Lea

    Oh,I have tears in my eyes. My 34 year old son and 31 year old daughter have definitely "let go" but I thank the Lord that they still both have times that they "need" me. I pray they always do in some shape, form or fashion. What a beautiful entry!

  21. Jennifer

    I reached for my 3 year old's hand just last week, and he said, "But we're not in a parking lot!" We have to let them soar too fast. And yet, they are always looking back. Beautiful.

  22. elaine @ peace for the journey

    I know these feelings well. Letting go of my two oldest to college nearly wiped this mother's heart clean. I'm glad we're there, but at the time, I wanted to curl up and hide until they came home again.

    Now I get to do it all over with the two youngers. My little girl has been especially attached to me, more than the boys. I don't know what I'll do when she cuts the string. She's still pretty attached, which is fine with me.

    Beautifully said, Jennifer.


  23. Nancy

    My baby girl left for college three years ago–still wrestling with the letting go. Still writing about it. Glad to know others feel the weight, the grief.

  24. ~*Michelle*~

    Gorgeous photo…..to compliment the gorgeous thoughts.

    I, too, needed to wipe the tears and boogies off the keyboard with this post.

    As a mama to all boys, and then God sent down a little girl to complete our family…..this made my heart skip a beat

    "Even when she flies, she'll be looking back from time to time to see if you're still there, holding on to keep things steady when the wind blows hard."

    thank you Jennifer……

  25. Karen

    This blessed me so…I can nothing to your words….

  26. Jeanne Damoff

    Love this. Thanks.

  27. Ann Kroeker

    Yes. Yes to all of this beautiful imagery and poetry and reality.

    One day, you know, assuming the natural order of things, we will reach out, shaky and unsure of our own balance, to hold our daughters' hands.

    Just as we've always been there when they've needed us to be strong and steady, I hope and pray they will be there for us, full of grace and love.



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