Let Him Go

"Let me go!" he squealed, eyes bright, face turned toward the sun sinking into the lake.

My two-year-old sat snugly on the seat of the zipline, clenching the handle with all the might of his skinny arms. His little feet were crossed at the ankles, just as I'd shown him. His tummy was snug against the rope. He was ready. The look in those green eyes - I'll never forget it.

They wanted adventure. The thrill of speed and wind. They wanted to zip like his favorite jet through the sky, past the clouds, and into the galaxy.

His breathless anticipation of the moment I would release him lit up his face like spring. He quivered, waiting for the very second I would let go.

But for a moment, my mind flashed to those future times I'd have to do this very thing. Let him sail off into the sunset on his own.

Him, stepping tentatively through the looming doorway of his first preschool classroom with a red backpack and his Mickey lunchbox. Checking over his shoulder to be sure I was still there. Me, waving goodbye, my hands jammed into pockets stuffed with tissues.

I'll have to let him go.

Him, begging to ride his first roller coaster. Me, knowing it will be fine – it always is, isn't it? Isn’t it? – and nodding yes as he sprints off with his big brothers to brave the loops. Dips. Drops.

I'll have to let him go.

Him, folding his gangly body into the driver's seat of my Tahoe, taking a deep breath and turning the engine over. Me, the passenger at last, swallowing terror, giving him the thumbs up when he asks if I'm ready.

I'll have to let him go.  

I'll have to stand on the sidelines, watching him stumble headlong as he makes his way through life, tripping over everything. Banging up his shins. I'll have to watch as he endures headache and heartbreak. As he eeks out an existence in a world that seems determined to hold back and trip up.

I'll have to let go of his hand. So he can sink or so he can soar.

But for now, as he waits patiently, squealing with the thrill he's about to feel in that little tummy, I smile. Because this letting go is easy. I know what's at the end of this jaunt. I can see the end of the line. But for those moments that are to come – the times I'll need to be wearing my biggest of big-girl pants – I'll need the rehearsal.

So, I tickle him under the chin, ask him if he's ready, tug him back to the top of the zipline, and let my baby boy fly.