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You were only a few months old when I dressed you in that tiny green dress with embroidered flowers. I topped it with a white cardigan should it be cold in the nursery that Sunday. We dropped you off at the nursery at a young age because I wanted you to know forever and always church was a safe place, even when Mommy and Daddy weren’t right there. Leaving you in the arms of that teenage girl, whose eyes lit up the moment she saw you (it was most assuredly the cute dress), a part of me hesitated. Were you ready? Would you be OK?

I guess this is what it feels like letting go.

The backpack was almost the size of your entire body. We walked down our long driveway and you were bursting with confidence and excitement. I had my suspicions it was because you knew I was right there, walking beside you. Something you’d come to take for granted in life, as it should be. The yellow school bus pulled up and a friendly lady we did yet not know greeted us with a good morning. I took one last photo of you lifting your tiny legs up those great big stairs. The bus headed off down the road to kindergarten. Were you ready? Would you be OK?

I guess this is what if feels like letting go.

You’ve only gone to the one church your whole life. You’ve done Sunday School, Bible School, big people worship. Many names and faces are familiar to you. As I’d hoped, it has been a safe place and I’m thankful. So youth group wouldn’t be any big deal right? Still, as we pulled up to the side of the church by the youth room doors, and I asked if you wanted me to walk in with you, I sensed that same hesitation I knew so well after all these years. From you, confident and excited, but needing to know Mom would be there. For me, how could it be we were at this stage already?

Were you ready? Would you be OK?

I guess this is what it feels like letting go.

Next year you’ll go to a whole new school, full of other middle schoolers. There’s so much excitement surrounding the organizing of your locker and switching classes throughout the day. Now we’ve done this dance a time or two now. You’ll walk into that school on your own, meeting the teachers and counting on your friends to be your familiar, safe place. I’ll be there to pick you up the minute the final bell rings. Are you ready? Will you be OK?

I guess this is what it feels like letting go.

And what do I know of a driver’s license, the first time you travel alone, graduation days, dropping you off at a college dorm and someday, possibly, watching your dad walk you down the aisle? All the times you’ll take off on your own, knowing Mom is behind only a step or two, cheering you on. These milestones have taught me to slowly but surely loosen my grip. Looking in your eyes and recognizing an eagerness in you, even amidst trepidation. You’ll be ready. You’ll be OK.

I’m learning. Learning how to let you go.

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Traci Rhoades

Traci Rhoades is a writer and Bible teacher. She lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area with her family and an ever-changing number of pets. Connect with her online at tracesoffaith.com or @tracesoffaith on twitter. She is the author of "Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost."

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