Dear Little One,
We have this unspoken ritual, you and I.
When we pull up to the curb at school, and you disembark for another day in kindergarten, we both know I’m going to idle there and keep an eye on you, until you disappear around the corner of the building. Some days, you walk briskly, never looking back.
Other days, you meander, turning and waving goodbye repeatedly.
Then, when we pulled up to the curb one morning last week, I said, “Sweetie, we’re here really early today; you’ll have plenty of time to play,” and you said something that squeezed my heart a little too hard:
“We have plenty of time for you to watch me walk away, Daddy.”
Oh, Sweetie, if you only knew: that’s what I have done, am doing, and will be doing for your entire life…watching you walk away…
I remember a summer morning at a playground, when, for the first time, you ran toward the slide and didn’t look back. I remember wishing you needed me, and sadly-gladly knowing it was good you didn’t.
I remember that first kindergarten morning, you disappearing into the big, cavernous school, teeming with strange kids. I remember losing sight of you in the hallway of crowded children and knowing it was the first of many times I’d lose sight of you in this crowded world.
I remember the first time you asked me to drop you off at the curb. I remember the purpose with which you walked toward the school, pony-tail bobbing, backpack bouncing, not looking back. Five years old, walking boldly around the corner, as if twenty-five was just around that corner, too.
Oh, Sweetie, I know I’m watching you walk away.
I just don’t feel like there is plenty of time for it.
A month ago you needed me in the pool with you. Today, I watched you swim from end to end with no help at all. You are walking away, and you are swimming away, too.
Three months ago you needed me to read you bedtime books, but something clicked for you recently, and now you’re reading Pinkalicious as if you wrote it yourself. You’re walking away, and you’re reading away, too.
A year ago, you depended upon me for lunches. Now, after school, you climb up on the counter and make a sandwich out of a holy mess of PB&J. You’re walking away, and you’re eating away, too.
Before long, that first date will knock on our front door.
And I’ll watch you walk away.
I’ll watch you grow up and look more and more like your mother—you have her chin and lips and cheeks and that same lone-spiraling curl which kisses the corner of your right eye on its way down. But unlike your mother, who seems like she isn’t going anywhere, I’ll watch you walk away.
First, down graduation aisles.
Then, probably, a wedding aisle.
You’ll turn the corner into jobs and paychecks and, if your current passions are any prediction of your future decisions, you will turn the corner into motherhood and nurturing and caring for children of your own. I’ll watch you walk away into your own season of parenthood, into your own season of letting go.
Then, I pray, one day as you’re idling at the curb and your little one walks away—turning one more corner into his or her own life—you’ll think of me. I hope you’ll pick up your phone and give me a call. I hope you’ll walk back home, so we can talk.
About how there is not even close to plenty of time for watching the walking.
About how we get distracted and forget to watch.
About how we wish it away and choose not to watch.
About how we can’t create more time, but we can cultivate the quality of our time.
About how we can watch more carefully.
Dear Little One, I pray one day you’ll walk back home, so I can let you know: I watched you walk away as closely as I knew how.
Yours then, now, and forever,
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.