In the six years I've been a parent, I've always believed in following the child. Attachment is often frowned upon, although in six years I've grown used to people's eyerolls when I say Ethan hasn't been left with a sitter or that I still lay with him until he falls asleep at night. I'm used to the way people like to lecture me that I coddle him or spoil him and need to "cut the cord." I've always believed that he would tell me when he was ready to seek out a little more independence and that's been true, as he always has. Still, independence burns at my heart despite me knowing it's on his terms and happening naturally (and confidently) thanks to our attached bond.

I remember the exhausting days when he refused to detach himself from my leg or wouldn't so much as look at other children who approached him on the playground. I blinked and he became the child surrounded by a crowd of eight other children on the school playground, holding hands and laughing and immersed in a game that they created together. Before bedtime, we talk about things that made us proud or made our hearts feel good (and sad, and mad, and all the other range of emotions one can feel in a day). The other night, he remarked that he felt "proud to be Ethan" and everything in me was overcome with peace. I remember just a few short months ago when he would lament how he was terrified no one would like him or would hide the silly riddles and big thoughts that his mind would think up. Now he runs up to children at the park and asks them if they want to hear a joke and, despite stumbling over the punchline, laughs through the entire delivery. The tremendous growth and the strides he has made in finding himself have made me feel peaceful and proud and have also made me realize the intricacy of motherhood at a level I hadn't before.

But it also hurts. Because this weekend, he went into the kitchen and made both of us lunch. He carried the clothing from the dryer to the couch and "folded" the towels before putting them into the linen closet. He asked for privacy as he washed up before bed and reemerged in his pajamas without even needing me to lay them out for him onto the bed. He turned down a trip to the museum on the start of his last week of summer to instead spend a day at his gym camp.

And these are good things. They are wonderful things because he has found his confidence and himself and he is growing! He is thriving! He is becoming the child he is meant to be at his own pace. He is excited for the future and letting me know that he is ready for more independence now, at age six. These are wonderful things! And they are the outcome I hoped for when I first cradled his newborn body in my arms and promised him I'd always be here, that I'd always be by his side, that we would nurture attachment and my job as his mother would be to follow his lead. But they still hurt because in all the ways he is ready, I am not ready.

I am not ready to drop my oldest child at Kindergarten despite the fact he is eager to see his classroom and meet his classmates, who he refers to as "my new friends." I am not ready to kiss him goodbye and watch him, backpack strapped to his back, walk into a classroom in elementary school. But he is, which he lets me know each day, multiple times a day, as he opens his organizer bins and double (triple, quadruple) checks that he has socks or clean underwear ready to go for his carefully planned out first day outfit. I am not ready for him to turn 7, or 8, or 17 and drive a car or have his heart broken or any of the other milestones that are to come. But I was not ready for him to turn 2, or 3, or 6, and still he does and still I follow him, letting him know I'm here as he should need me. Because that's my job, in all of its glory and sadness, and there is no better job in the world than to be his mommy.

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