“You know what you do with the youngest one, don’t ya?” this sweet elderly gentleman asked as he peered into my newborn’s car seat, smiling.

Curious, I responded, “No, what?”

His eyes flickered a little with nostalgia as he replied, “You just hold ‘em every chance you get.”

It’s my favorite piece of parenting advice ever.

My eyes drifted over from the shade of our park bench to my bigger kids playing on the swings. With my oldest already a tween, I understood completely.

“Thanks. I’ll sure try.”

And I did.

I bounced her in the baby carrier on walks through the neighborhood or along the sidelines watching her big brothers play soccer.

I cradled her tiny body against my chest in the warm bath to soothe her colicky tummy.

I perched her on my hip and attempted to keep her pudgy little fingers out of the peanut butter jar as I slapped together sandwiches for lunch.

I held her ALL THE TIME.

Even now, at four.

I still hold her in so many ways.

She reaches instinctively for my hand on our way into the grocery store, and I make sure it’s free.

We ride doubles on the swings, and her eyes dance as she hollers, “Higher momma!!”

Each night she shuffles through the dark to my side of the bed, “Will you come snuggle me?” So, I snuggle her back to sleep in the glow of her nightlight. Listening to the gentle in and out of her breath.

I hold her . . . 

Every chance I get.

I looked up from the stove the other night, and there she was. Reaching up her arms. Wanting to be held.

And I remembered that sweet gentleman’s advice.

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So, I turned down the heat under the pan and plunked on the lid.

Dinner could wait.

She’s heavier now. And as I hoisted her up, I noticed how her feet brush against my knees.

But we danced around the island in the kitchen anyway. Twirling together.

She laughed as we spun, and I realized . . . 

I’ll ALWAYS hold her.

Even when she no longer fits in my arms.

I’ll hold her little hopes and dreams. I’ll hold her in her sadness or fears.

I’ll hold her up in prayer.

And I’ll ALWAYS hold a place for her in the center of my heart.

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I’ll hold her the best way I know how.

Because that’s what you do with the baby . . . 

You just hold ‘em every chance you get.

Originally published on Ordinary on Purpose, by Mikala Albertson

Mikala Albertson

Mikala is a wife, family practice doctor turned mostly stay-at-home mom to five kids, and writer. She is the author of Ordinary On Purpose: Surrendering Perfect and Discovering Beauty Amid the Rubble available wherever books are sold. Mikala writes to give you permission to release your grip on all the should-dos and have-tos and comparisons and “I’m not measuring up”s and just be free to live your life. THIS life, however imperfect. In this body with these relationships in this house at this job with these parents and these circumstances. Your ONE precious, beautiful life! Join her on Facebook and Instagram.