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COLUMN: Letting go while holding on

Reflections on motherhood in honour of Mother’s Day
Motherhood is the act of holding on while simultaneously letting go — one columnist’s reflections for Mother’s Day. (Photo Kristina Paukshtite/Pexels)

I watch her head off down the street and want to press pause.

I want to freeze this moment, to imprint this image on my memory so I can keep it with me forever: the long hair swinging, the black boots clomping, the black hoodie unzipped despite the drizzle. She won’t turn around to wave. She doesn’t anymore. But I know she hears me when I call a goodbye after her.

I linger there just a moment too long, not so much watching her walk off to school as allowing myself to savour the film reel that inevitably plays in my mind in such moments. I let it unroll the long but much-too-short journey from utterly helpless newborn to determinedly independent middle-schooler.

The film reel speeds through the stages from then to now.

The toddler with the mischievous grin stealing bites of my muffin on our very last trip to Starbucks together before I went back to work after maternity leave. (One of us cried buckets. It wasn’t her.)

The tiny blonde sprite with the quivering lip who resolutely refused to cry when I dropped her off at big-girl daycare for the first time — and who didn’t want to leave when I came to pick her up.

The cautious kindergartener with the jaunty pink backpack who clung to my hand just a little too hard as we lined up outside the big school for the first time.

The giggling big kid running with a pack of friends around the schoolyard, steadfastly ignoring Mom trying to catch her eye from the other side of the fence.

It’s easy to forget, standing here on the porch, how long eleven-going-on-twelve years feels when you’re in the thick of it. How many exhausting nights of breastfeeding and teething and croup and night terrors and fevers and general sleeplessness have retreated into some sort of distant hazy dream of motherhood past. How many scraped knees and bumped heads have been kissed, how many tantrums have been tamed, how many tears have been soothed.

It’s easy to bask in the nostalgia of that golden time when Mom was her whole world; when the warm circle of Mom’s arms around her was enough to banish all her cares and fears.

I don’t bask long, though. Because I know in my heart that this place we are now, with me standing here watching her walk away, is exactly where we’re meant to be. Every minute of every hour of every day of the past going-on-twelve years have brought us to this moment – this moment where she strides off without a backward glance, but with the inner knowing that the Mom whose hand she no longer wants to hold in public will always be there waiting for her.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve done as a mother, I think. Standing still.


Letting this tangle-haired halfling of mine stride off into the world without me.

I know that her journey has barely begun. I know I’ll never stop feeling the push-pull of simultaneously holding on and letting go — even as 12 becomes 13 and 16 and 21 and before I know it she’s a mother, too (should she choose that path), and I’m watching her repeat the journey with her own children.

But for this moment, with Mother’s Day approaching, I’ll let myself wallow just a little in the bittersweetness of it all.

I’ll laugh a little and cry a little and I’ll stand here and watch her just a little too long.

Maybe tomorrow she’ll even turn back and wave.

Julie MacLellan is Surrey/White Rock bureau chief for Black Press Media.

About the Author: Julie MacLellan

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