I want to remember it. Every time I hold your hand.
Earlier this month, my family visited some acquaintances who own a small home and cottage in the Hamptons. They had invited us to stay in their cottage, and we accepted. After a slightly harrowing drive out of Manhattan, we arrived late morning on a Tuesday, spent some time relaxing on the property listening to the sound of lazy lawn mowers and chirping birds, and then walked the 400 yards to the “bay beach” at the end of their block.
As per usual, I carried the family backpack and had a little hand in each of my own. Jacob scampered about, holding my hand for a few yards and then running up to his dad and then back again. Hannah Grace, as per usual, clung tight, my fiercely independent girl who always likes to have a hand to hold (as long as she can choose to hold it). Our host caught up with us and fell into step with our slow pace. Hannah Grace immediately requested her hand as well: “I hold your hand?”
Anne seemed both pleased and surprised. “Of course!” she exclaimed, and eagerly shifted her bag to the other arm. “It’s so nice to have someone who wants to hold my hand,” she remarked casually.
I pondered her words. Her daughter is eight. Having an eight-year-old child feels a world away to me, forever in the future. My days of hand-holding feel endless and relentless right now. It seems that I never have a minute or an inch to myself, and yet – these days are already waning, already slowly diminishing.
I want to hold on to these days, these hand-holds, but it’s hard to savor the preciousness, the beauty, the tenderness, when the big picture often feels so exhausting and difficult, when those sweet kids are destroying property and their bodies, screaming like banshees and generally creating mayhem, getting on my every last nerve and bringing me to the end of my rope, time and time again.
But I do want to remember these times. I want to remember the sweet morning snuggles, the evenings when they ask for hugs and kisses. I want to always be the one that they run to, the one they cry with, the one they need most.
It’s amazing how painfully beautiful and hard it is being a parent.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
– Proverbs 22:6
Being a parent is holding on tight, and then letting go. Everything that I do should prepare them for that day of letting go, should shape their hearts, equip their minds, ready their bodies to be out on their own. And, at the same time, if I do it right, Lord-willing, they will both be fully prepared to go out on their own — and also so secure of their love and place at home that they will always want to come back.
This fall, my forever firstborn, my heart, my first baby, will start Kindergarten. This day is a milestone for every family, I know, and I certainly feel it powerfully. He has been in preschool three days a week for the last two years, but now he will be away five days each week. This is the start of the letting-go. I will no longer be his primary influence; he will no longer spend more time with me than with anyone else. For months, I have been praying desperately, fervently, boldly, for his friends and teachers and influences and environment at his new school.
Lord, teach me to trust you, and teach me to let go.
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
— Proverbs 3: 1-15
My son, this is the start of the letting-go. But I am learning, will learn, to trust God with your life and your future, and I will learn to let you go, to surrender up my firstfruits.
But while I am learning, I’m also right here, just waiting to hold your hand.