Letting go, or holding tight

We dismantled our giant family bed last month, and moved Emerson’s toddler bed to the corner of our room. I realize that that milestone is something that probably occurs within the first few months, if not weeks, of most children’s lives in this country. And it’s probably a bit farther than the corner of their parent’s bedroom. But, I think the act of letting go of our children, while wanting to hold on, transcends parenting philosophies and styles.

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Emerson slept mostly on my chest, skin to skin, for the first few months of her life. She then moved to my side, in our bed, pressed as closely to my body as possible at all times. At eighteen months we fashioned one mega family bed by removing one side of her crib and attaching it to my side of the bed. She slept with two limbs in our bed, two limbs in her own for months. Slowly, I taught her to remain completely in her own crib all night…. but still just inches from my body. At two and half, we made her bed a separate sleeping area, at a different height, but still next to our bed. And I thought we might remain this way until she left for college.

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Through all of these (painfully slow) baby steps toward someday sleeping independently, in her own room, I have cherished the closeness, appreciated the positive affect it’s had on my child, felt at peace watching her sleep, and, quite honestly, reveled in the fact that I never had to get out of bed to attend to her in the middle of the night. But, I have also longed for space, and wondered how long she would go on needing me like this if I didn’t (gently) ask her to take these baby steps. I’ve been frustrated, and at times, resentful. I have flip flopped between snuggling up to her while she sleeps, and wishing I had the freedom to sleep in hotel, by myself, for a week. Or maybe just have my room back.

But, every time I have thought about moving Emerson away from my bedside…really considered it as a reality….I’ve wanted to weep and keep her there forever.

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Yet, it can’t stay like this forever. While both sides of this party (me, and Emerson) are hesitant to move on, we both need and want that, at some point. We both cling, while pushing away. We both need to allow the string connecting our hearts to lengthen, and stretch, so we both can grow….and Emerson can grow away from me.

So, we experimented while on vacation a couple months ago. We put Emerson in her own bed in our hotel room. I thought, for sure, there would be tears, and she would end up sleeping in our bed….even closer than before. But, she was pumped. She couldn’t believe it was a bed, just for her. She climbed right in, and she slept there happily all night. I woke up, feeling nervous, a lot…while she slept. But, then I woke up in the morning feeling freeing than I have since I conceived her four years ago. And happy/sad in knowing she was growing up.

When we got home, we moved her bed to her own corner and set up a little “room” within our room. I really didn’t want to, but I did…for her. I’ve been able to move on with my life a bit since making that change. But, in that freedom, I feel that tug at my heart that all moms know—the tug of letting go. The tug of knowing she will move down the hall, and then to a college dorm, and who knows…across the country, or even the world. And I have to let her go. I’m so proud of her as she journeys outward. My heart swells knowing she is so confident and strong and adventurous, all of which I am sure will take her to so many places where I cannot go with her…because, this is her life. This is her adventure. This is her world to discover, just like I did.

And that is motherhood. Whether it’s a bed, or sending them to kindergarten, or watching them get married, it’s all the same. It’s a feeling we can’t escape, and it makes it all so, so, so worth it….but always comes with a few tears.

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