THE BLOG

How I Let Go of My Son's Hand

03/17/2015 03:48 pm ET | Updated May 17, 2015
Catina Tanner

People are always eager to give parenting advice. For example, "you should feed your child solid food at 6 months," or "your child should be potty trained by age 3."

But there are things that people don't tell you. Important things, like when should you let up on the reins and give your child to the world. The moment you set them free and trust that they come back and in one piece. You know, like letting them walk around the block by themselves or trusting them to play outside alone.

I might sound like an over-protective mama, but this has been very difficult for me to do. You see, when my son was 4 years old, we lost him at the beach for two hours. It was the worst two hours of my life. After the first hour that he was missing, I was already starting to mourn him. His short life was flashing before my eyes. When I finally collapsed in tears onto the sand, I got a call that he had come back to where we had last seen him.

Ever since that day, I have kept the leash short, but now he is 6 years old and I can see him turning into a little boy more and more each day. I can feel the world drawing him into its pull and begging him to come explore.

Its scary. I'm scared to death. I wanna keep my baby boy safe and hold him close. I know how bad it is out there. I know the world is filled with bad people who would hurt my sweet, sweet boy. I also know what the world has given me: the adventures, the fun, the memories. Of course, I have crossed paths with bad things and bad people, but I thank god my parents instilled in me the feeling to not be drawn into it. They gave me a safe environment so that I had the confidence to believe in my intuition about people.

But I am not my Mom. She always knew what to do. Sometimes I have to reassure myself I am a mother of not only one, but two human beings on this planet. I still feel like I am 7 and these two little ones are just overgrown Cabbage Patch dolls that poop and pee and talk.

Yet, recently, I was forced to face this dilemma. I had to make a choice: Do I let go of his hand or do I hold on tight and deprive him of an experience of a lifetime?

I let go. I let him roam around with a new friend he made on a weekend camping trip. We were with a group of about 30 people and tons of kids. Kids were running wild in the big dark forest, in the overgrown pastures, around the old haphazard farm. I could see danger everywhere and I could see strangers everywhere. But I saw my son. I saw the look on his face when he asked if he could roam the fields with his new friend. I saw my baby turning into a boy and I knew it was time to let go.

I have to admit, I wandered around every hour checking to see if he was OK. And every time I wasn't able to find him right away, I visualized the Amber Alert on Facebook. I started listing what he had on that day and where I last saw him.

The second day, I spent half the time worrying and by the third day, I had only sent out a mental Amber Alert maybe three times. We were in the car on the way home after the camping weekend and my son started telling me all about his adventures "deer hunting" in the fields and about the "dinosaurs he killed with his spear in the forest." He went on for an hour, telling me all about his new friend and the places they discovered, things I would have never known. But most importantly, experiences he would have never had if I hadn't let go of his hand.

I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks as I remembered holding him in my arms just after he was born and telling him I would never let go. But these weren't sad tears, these were proud tears. I was not only proud of him, but proud of myself. I let go of my baby's hand and he grabbed it back as a little boy.

This post was originally posted on Amsterdam Mama.