Lydia informed me this morning as we were driving to her preschool that she didn’t need me to walk her to her classroom. She was ready to do it by herself. This took me by surprise. This newfound confidence and independence were a far cry from last year’s version of Lydia who often did not want to let go when I gave her a goodbye hug at drop off. The little girl standing in front of me was different. She’d picked out her outfit, dressed herself, gotten her own cereal, and belted herself into her car seat.
We arrived at preschool, and I was curious to see if she’d follow through with her words. We held hands, as we always do, and walked to the outside door. Lydia stopped, let go of my hand and faced me. “Daddy, why don’t I just give you my hug now.”
“OK, Sweetie.” She wrapped her tiny little arms around me and gave me a quick squeeze. Then we stepped into the large lobby where the check-in lady took her temperature. She was good to go. Her classroom was down the long hall and around the corner. This was the moment.
Lydia looked at me. I looked back. She didn’t move.
“Do you want me to walk with you?” I asked.
She tugged on the straps of her bright pink, sparkly backpack. “No, I’m OK.”
With that, she was off. Her tiny legs striding down the hall not once looking back. I watched her go until she rounded the corner; then I burst into tears.
OK, I didn’t burst into tears, but on the inside I did. Big, ugly dad tears. And so it begins, I thought to myself, and so it begins.
I walked back to the car and sat there for a few silent minutes. This felt like a massive moment. It happened so unexpectedly. I wasn’t prepared, and yet as a parent this is what I’ve been preparing Lydia for. Preparing her to become her own person. Preparing her to be brave and venture out into the world and down the long halls of life and around the corners into the unknown without me.
It’s such a strange thing this whole parenting experience. I feel within myself the yearning for my kids to grow up and become independent people. I see that as part of my role as a parent. It’s my job to help launch them, but I also long to be needed and central in their lives. There are moments when I swear I cannot play one more round of Candyland or house, and I just want Lydia to go and play by herself. Today I wanted the opposite. I wanted her to need me to make it down the hall and around the corner. I wasn’t ready for her newfound level of independence.
As a parent, I wrestle with those competing forces inside me. The pull to protect and control and the desire to release and empower. The struggle is real. The fear is real. The wondering if I’m doing it right is real. Being a parent is hard work- emotionally, physically, spiritually. You name it.
So as I’m sitting here writing I have to remind myself that Lydia did something brave today. She stepped out and took a risk. Now I have to do something brave too. I have to let her keep walking and keep growing and keep blossoming because that is love.