You cried when I dropped you off at your gymnastics class this afternoon. You’ve been going for more than a year now, but you always look like you’re on the verge of breaking down when I leave you there. It’s the same when I pick you up from schoolyou always tell me whether or not you cried (most of the time you did). You tell me you don’t want me to go, you want to stay with me. Even though you have fun in your classes. Even though you’ve made friends at school and at gymnastics. Even though the boy you call your best friend is in the same class as you.

Despite all that, you would still rather stay with me.

You are a homebody, through and through. There is nowhere else you’d rather be than home. With me. I am your home, and life is better when I am there with you. You are shy and introverted and uncomfortable around strangers. You would rather spend an afternoon playing by yourself on the floor of our living room than be anywhere else with anyone else. While your little sister runs wild and free, you remain my little shadow, always beside me. When a little hand slides into mine, it is almost always yours, seeking comfort and protection. When I sit down to read or watch TV, you are the one to slide under the crook of my arm, safe and secure.

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Sometimes I am bothered by your desperate attachment. Sometimes I am inconvenienced by your tears as I try to leave you at your gymnastics class. Even as my heart breaks to see you cry, my brain is already assembling the list of tasks to accomplish while you are in class. I have places I need to be, things I need to do. But you need me.

So I stay with you for as long as I can.

I give you an extra hug and kiss. I hold you an extra minute. I give you a little extra bit of love before I go. You need me now, so I give you what you need because I know there will come a day when you won’t need it anymore.

I know there will come a day when you won’t need me to stay. There will come a day when you will tell me to go. There might even come a day when you won’t want me to stay.

And when that day comes, I will go. I will leave you. I will let you go and watch you walk away. You will grow up someday, and my life will never be the same again.

You have already grown up so much. There have been so many lasts that have passed unnoticed. The last time feeding you at night. The last time you slept in a crib. The last time you laid across my lap and drank a bottle. The last time I carried you in my arms. One day you will cry for me for the last time. One day you will ask me to stay with you for the last time. One day you will ask for hugs and kisses for the last time.

And like every other last in our life, I won’t recognize it for what it is until it’s over. And I won’t be ready for it.

I won’t be ready, but I will need to face it anyway. I will face it with the same courage you face every day of school and gymnastics class. You don’t want me to leave you, but you let me go anyway.

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And one day it’ll be my turn to let you go. I won’t want you to leave me, but I’ll let you do it anyway. Because we all need to be courageous sometimes. We all need to stand on our own two feet. We all need to spread our wings and learn to fly even when it would be safer if we just stayed in our nest.

You were made to fly. You were made to step out into the great unknown in hope and faith. You were made to hold me tight until the day you let me go. And until that day comes, sweet boy, you can stay here. You can stay with me for as long as you need. (Unless it’s time for school, in which case, it’s time to go, or we’re all going to be late.)

Shannon Whitmore

Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and freelance writing on topics such as marriage, family life, faith, and health. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.