all the letting go

“I had a scary dream,” a small voice says from the doorway. It’s her way of asking for an invitation. We are still, mostly, asleep.

“Get in bed with us” we say, with all the tenderness she seeks. We say yes to her easily, because it rarely happens. She sleeps like the dead and always has. And because, we know: now that she is seven, this will become rarer still. Her needing us. Her self small enough to be in bed between us.

“I’m sorry,” I say to her, as we make room in the bed for her. “I’m sorry you had a bad dream,” I whisper into the tangle of her hair, pulling her close to me. She gives off the sweet, particular smell of sleep.

It is not the middle of the night. I can tell it is actually early morning. The light is a blue sliver sylphing between the curtains.

She shifts to face me. She tucks her knees up. She folds her arms in. She has made herself so small. But I know: This is a trick. Because when she stands next to me now, the top of her head meets with my rib cage.

How did she get so tall? How.

But all folded in like this, she is my baby again, and I would take her into my belly again. My body would protect her and nourish her. I would keep her. But I know I can’t, so I won’t — in spite of myself.

All of mothering is letting go. No one tells you this. It is so much letting go. And it’s better not to fight it, because the truth is: the best version of mother-love is the letting-go kind. The you-are-free-to-be-you kind. The promise-not-to-interfere kind.

We stay curled up like this for many minutes. She is comforted and asleep again. And here is me, awake now, remembering her as my baby again.

It is surely morning now. The light beyond the window is brightening. We are overdue for the Starting of Things. But it doesn’t matter, I think. Let’s be late today. I trap time in my hands, willing it to stay, even though I know it’s not mine to keep.

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