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Letting Your Kids Go

Letting Your Kids Go

By Chris Jordan

One of the most difficult things I have found about being a mother surprised me. It wasn’t the sleepless nights or the tantrums. It wasn’t the whining or the endless bickering. It wasn’t even the fights about going to bed and then the same fights about getting up in the morning. No, the most difficult thing about being a mother has been letting them go.

It creeps up slowly this desire to be independent and separate from you. One day they are hanging off your leg and you wish they’d just go away and play somewhere. Then the next day they are running out the front door shouting over their shoulder that they’ll see you later. And you wish they’d come and talk to you for awhile, but they have places to be, people to see, things to do. Most of the time it doesn’t include you. As it should be.

My kindergartener comes home from school most days and gives me a run down of every last detail that happened–who got a dreaded red star, who had a birthday, who threw up on the rug– there is nothing too minute to share. He still likes to sit with me on the couch. He likes to climb into my bed in the morning and whisper/yell in my ear. He likes when I blow raspberries on his on his stomach when his pajama shirt pulls up over his belly. Even so, he now has a life that is separate from mine.

My high schoolers are not so much into the sharing. And they really are not into me blowing raspberries on their stomach. Who would have thought?

I wrote this in late 2005, about my then one year old son :

We play this game, you and I, where you walk away from me. I spread my arms wide. You stop and turn after making it half way across the room and giggle to see me waiting there. You run to me, well do your zombie walk as fast as you possibly can, sometimes losing your balance. You never take your eyes off of mine. Your arms are spread wide and when you reach me you wrap your arms around me and nuzzle my neck with your face. I breathe deeply inhaling your scent. I never want to forget this moment, the way you are right now.

Yesterday we were playing on the floor together. You got up off my lap and began walking away. I watched from behind as you toddled away from me, your arms held up for balance, your hands in little fists. You were giggling. I waited for you to pivot around and look for me. You paused at the threshold. I put my arms out in anticipation.

And then… you kept walking. You walked right out of the room, never bothering to look back at me. I wanted to call for you. I wanted you to come running back to my arms.

I knew this was only the first time I would be watching you walking away from me, stepping out on your own. And while I know this is what being a parent is all about, letting go over and over again, until you think your heart is walked right out of your body. Maybe this is why it happens in such small steps, so that when you pack your bags and go off to college, confident that you know more than I do, I won’t be as sad to see you go. Maybe it is so your heart becomes hardened by these tiny fissures and doesn’t just shatter.

Nevertheless, as you walked away from me, and out of the room, I wanted to call out, “Wait. Come back. I’m not ready.”

At the time I wrote those words I thought it would get easier to accept my children walking away from me and becoming independent. I thought that each little step they took would make the next one not seem like as big of a deal. I have found the opposite to be true. Maybe it is because I have children who are only a couple of years away from being legal adults and short of physically moving out of my house there isn’t much left to asserting their independence.

My oldest son is now at the age where most of his friends are driving. He soon will be driving also. Now it isn’t so much him walking out of the room without turning back to look at me as it is him running out the front door, slamming it behind him, a quick “goodbye” shouted over his shoulder. Then getting into a car driven by one of his friends.

I wanted to call out, “Wait. Come back. I’m not ready.” But I don’t.

Instead I say goodbye to the already closed door.

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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  • Ella

    January 28, 2011 at 10:04 am

    This really hits home for me. My husband and I chose to have one child for a variety of reasons (my health one) My son is no more precious to me than for those people who have two or more kids but I love being a mom so much and I would want two days for every one I spend with him. Children are just so great in spite of the petty annoyances that make up life with them. Reading stories to them, listening to them explain how they see the world from their perspective at different ages. Even if you are mindful it is so fleeting. I so enjoy life with my son. Even now that he is a teenager. He is so fun and great to be with. Letting go is so painful but you really have to. I constantly remind myself that my job is to prepare him to navigate his way through the world without us. My mother-in-law though a lovely lady in her own way has never let go of my husband and it has made me very uncomfortable and made both my son and I feel like outsiders whenever she is around. We will always have a bond with our children but letting go is something that we all have to do.

  • Jillian

    January 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

    My sons are one and three. I joke about emotionally crippling them so that they will live with me forever. I won’t. But I want to. The only thing I want more than to keep them with me forever is to see them fully become the best men they can be. So I guess I’ll let them go some day.

  • lesliele

    January 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Wow. My son just turned one, and we had his one year check up today… and I’m crying reading this. I’m a SAHM, so I get to spend so much time with him, but it seems like it’ll never be enough. Sigh… he’s growing up so fast.

  • Lisa

    January 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    -sniff, sniff- 


    I’m not ready yet either.

  • suzie

    January 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Yeah.  I’m two years behind as my oldest is “only” 14, but I’m right there with you.

  • Kathleen

    January 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Whenever I think about not getting the cuddles and the smell of baby/toddler, I want to give my son a sibling right that minute so I can prolong it. I suddenly understand why people would want to keep on having kids forever.

    @Jillian – I’ve thought about it too. Although I’m pretty sure that 13-year-old boy belly isn’t as good-smelling to nibble on…

  • Vi

    January 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Beautifully written! I loved reading it.

    My boy is only 10 months old. He has yet to walk. I hope that I can let go as gracefully as you have.

  • Gina

    January 29, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I have an overly independent 17 yo daughter who turns 18 in May. I’m not ready for the next step. She’s bursting at the seams for that next move. For the “rest” of her life to start.

  • Amy-May

    January 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    And that’s why we have 6 kids, very close together. The first time they walk away from me, I’m ready to start on the next one! Now, at 7-16, we are watching the oldest become a young man…it is bitter sweet.

  • Colleen

    January 30, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Lesliele: I hear that! I’ve got a 5 month old with whom I stay home full-time, and even with me at home and her immobile, I want more time with her. 

    Kathleen: ugh! I tell people that all the time, and they don’t seem to get it. Funny that before my baby, I wasn’t convinced I could handle one baby, and now I want a new one every 2 months or so to prolong babyhood!

  • Marko @ Parent Support Hub

    April 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    We all want each of our children to grown into happy, confident adults. But the process of letting go will involve some grieving on our part. We’re trading in the security of a loving family for something we have not yet experienced! No longer will our children be less capable of us. They will evolve into our equals. It’s easy to see why this letting go thing is so hard! The unknown, untrodden path can be scary.