Getting Out of the Way

I reach for him, and he screams, “No! Go ‘way!” He swipes his arm at me, less trying to hit and more trying to wave me away, like swatting at a mosquito buzzing around his ears. I walk away, huffing an angry sigh, trying to play it cool but feeling pierced by the thorny barbs of his new found independence.  The heart in me, the heart of this boy's mother, heaves from the petty rejection.  He's supposed to be my baby, the one who clings to me with a koala grip, always needing me, wanting me, begging for my time and my help and my love.  I wonder if I have waited so long for him to not need me so intensively that I forgot it would ever happen.

Perhaps because the changes are gradual, they should feel welcome when they come. I should feel something like finally he’s doing such-and-such, but instead it’s almost as if the gradual nature of his progression allows me to believe change will never come.

When Lincoln was born, we threw out the progress charts, we threw out the timelines and the comparisons and the expectations. We already chafed at the comparison game some parents love to play, at the way some people would dissect each milestone our oldest hit, as if knowing how many months old he was when he walked or talked or rolled over would give them insight on what kind of person he was going to become. It was off-putting enough with a typical child, a child who in all likelihood would have no problem checking off each of those developmental milestones right on time. But with Lincoln we knew that, though he would get to those milestones eventually, he was just going to have to go his own speed and we were just going to have to be okay with that.

No rush, we said to ourselves.  He'll get there when he gets there.  And anyway, when we pushed him too hard, insisted that he open his mouth for a spoonful of pureed sweet potatoes or tried to leave him sitting on the potty until something came out, he would shut up like a clam.  The harder we pushed, the more he refused to cooperate.

So, we met him where he was.  We kissed his messy hair, wrapped our arms around his tiny frame, and learned how to love without an agenda.  We learned, and relearned nearly every day, that his life is not about our timing, any more than our own lives are about our timing. 

And some days, I admit, it seems just a lovely way to fall into complacency.  It can be easier, when you are raising a child who adheres quite adamantly to his own painstaking schedule, to become a bit laissez faire about finding ways to push him and engage him.  Sure, there are times when I am so tired of still being in the phase of strollers and diapers and sippy cups, but far more often I find myself lamenting that he doesn’t let me hold him like he used to and that he’s so tall now I can hardly justify calling him my little peanut anymore.

And now, the explosion of independence is almost startling.  Lincoln has learned what he does (and what he most certainly does not) need me for.  I feel the apron strings sliced right through, and it aches like a phantom limb.

He has no memory of himself as that clutching little koala, always reaching for me.  He knows, instead, what he can do, where his legs can take him, what his hands can grab.  He knows his independence, his ability, with no thought of how hard earned it's been.  He sees only his own strength.

How, then, can I still be focused on his weakness?

This precarious tightrope of mothering.  I feel I am always falling on one side or the other, always too much or too little, never walking the careful line of just right.  Lincoln tells me to go away, and I want to grab him tighter, squeeze us both back in time, hold on to something that's gone.

Yesterday we watched a nature show together, Linc on one side of me and his older brother on the other, and for a moment I relived those days of their tactile adoration of me, when they craved my touch and lived in my arms.  We watched together as a wolf cub aged on screen, from four weeks to three months in an instant, becoming an unrecognizable thing with one magical fade to black.  At four weeks, a round thing with snub nose, and at three months a lanky adolescent with long snout and longer legs.  And how he ran at three months, all sleek glee and bright eyes.

Of course, I see that in my cubs, too.  The joy they feel at growing into themselves.  They, too, are preparing for the pace of their lives, and in truth I wouldn't deprive them of a moment of that.  I see that in Lincoln, as he finds his words and his footing and his blessed independence.  So, I will remember yet again to love him without agenda, to meet him where he is, even when where he is has moved out from under me.  For what is my job but to prepare the path and then get out of the way?  And watch him run, those long legs pumping.  And be proud.

Joining up with Imperfect Prose Thursdays over at Emily T. Wierenga's site.


  1. Oh Liz, you have written out my very heart here. You were able to articulate so much of what has been swirling down deep but that I have been afraid of naming. And it was this line that undid me:
    "..and his life is not about our timing..."
    Yes. Yes. Yes.
    My oldest son has Asperger's and there is so much that you have captured here with which I can identify. I am confident that your beautiful mama warrior heart will be more than enough for your amazing Lincoln. I believe it.

    1. Thanks, Holly! I remember reading about your son (on SheLoves, I think?) and that your words resonated deeply with our experience. What's amazing about our Lincoln is that he seems to teach us as much as we teach him. Raising him has been such an eye opening experience, and I wouldn't change it for anything.

  2. "For what is my job but to prepare the path and then get out of the way? And watch him run, those long legs pumping. And be proud. "

    YES. THIS.

    Love it.


    1. Angelika, thank you for your regular encouragement! You are always full of kind words, and I so appreciate it!

    2. Well your writing speaks to me. Maybe it is because we both have two boys. (And two CUTE boys I might add...the both of us.) I'm always reading...I just don't always comment.



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