"That's it...you can do it. Steady...steady....ooh, put your left foot in front of you. You got it. That's it....slowly...here reach for my hand...."
Such was the conversation my four year old and I had as he walked on a log across the creek behind our house. It wasn't the widest log in the world and, to a four year old boy who is scared to death, it must have seemed like a needle over a canyon. What a nice feeling to be needed as he wouldn't go unless he had a firm grasp of my hand. But, as much as I want to be needed, I knew he would feel an amazing sense of accomplishment by doing it on his own.
So, I encouraged. I cheered him on. "Just a little more...you can do it! I have faith in you...you're such a big boy!" All the while, the bigger metaphor for this scenario hung over my head like a giant cloud. "One day, he will not want or need to hold my hand in life. One day, he will roll his eyes at the very offer of help and it will break my heart," I thought to myself. But, he tiptoed on. Slowly...patiently...like a fine surgeon, he gingerly took one step after another until he was close enough to leap into my arms. He then looked up with a proud smile and giggled "I did it, Mommy! All by myself. I did it!"
I once found a note tucked neatly into the suitcase I had packed when I headed off for college. My Mom, with her infinite gift of writing, had written a short little letter to me titled "For Katie, at 18." It meant a lot to me then but, as a mother sitting on the edge of a log over a creek now watching my son take steps of independence, that note takes on a whole new meaning. She verbalized what I know I will one day experience. The note read:
"For years you let me pull you along, holding your hand. You stood in my shadow, behind me, clinging to my skirts, afraid to look ot at the world. You peeked out and found the world a friendly place to be--a welcoming place for a girl with white blond hair and blue-blue eyes. You grew, and your steps caught up with mine. You still hid at times when the world seemed too much to handle. But, your times to be afraid grew fewer and further apart. You held onto my hand less often and you began to pull away to walk your own path. The process is almost complete. Our hands still reach. Our fingertips touch, but even that small contact is slipping as your steps outdistance mine and you enter a world uncharted by me. I can only assure you that I'm here - always - as your hand slips out of mine and my grasp turns into a wave goodbye. You're grown."
Although you are not here anymore Mom, your words of wisdom live on through the gift of your writing. May I be able to leave the same legacy for Daniel some day. Thank you for holding my hand and also knowing when to let go. You made me who I am today. I love you.