I will never forget the feeling. A tiny hand nestled in my own. Small, sweaty and so familiar. I can’t remember the age you are no longer allowed to hold your child’s hand. Certainly by two or three you hear firm demands that there will be no hand holding as you both cross the street. Being older and much bigger, this merely makes you smile as you reach for a hand anyway. However, there is that moment when it simply stops. You went from carrying, to hand holding, to walking side by side.
Recently I found myself at quite a different stage of life. No longer the mother forever scampering behind little ones on the beach, I am now the mother who can actually sit and read. When my tween daughter decides to come down to the beach, we are inseparable. Yet she is now at a stage where she doesn’t accompany me on every trip to the water.
This past week I was stunned to find myself walking alone up and over the stairs, setting down a beach chair and actually READING. Initially I had a moment of independent self-satisfaction. Until I glanced around at all the young mommies taking pictures of their little ones and holding their hands at the water’s edge. Maybe I don’t actually WANT to be reading on the beach alone!
On Sunday, my not-quite-teen daughter and I walked together looking for sea glass and other interesting treasures. We talked, laughed and enjoyed the warm sun on our backs. She threw herself in to the icy water, racing back with a grin that only she can do. Giggling, she wrapped her arm around my back to get me just as cold and wet as she was. But as we continued our walk, her arm stayed where she had placed it.
Was this my tween daughter? With her arm wrapped around me, in public?
Then it happened. She let go of me, letting her arm hang at her side. Then, with no notice, her hand gently touched mine and held on as we continued our walk.
I dared not breathe. Here was my youngest… my baby… once again holding my hand. I closed my eyes and took in the moment. Pretending that nothing was different, I continued to walk while repeating over and over to myself, “Enjoy this moment! Enjoy this moment!”
Soon enough, she reached down to grab a shell and our hands were once again apart.
I believe I shall remember the feel of her larger hand in mine even more than that of her smaller, little girl hand. Because in this moment, I held on to both a little girl’s hand and a young woman’s hand. It was a safety net below me as I teeter on this slowly aging tightrope of motherhood.