Loosen, But Don’t Let Go

“Do you have your towels? Your goggles? Let’s go!” I drill, my voice edging harsh in all of our ears.

I could so easily give in and stay home, curl up instead of rush out.

Chloe brushes my arm on her way out the door, “Ready, mom!” She smiles.

Brody does the same. Pretzels peek through fingers that are (too) quickly losing their delicious pudginess.

But Kayli hangs back, shoulders slumped, feet planted. She’s not going anywhere.

“I don’t want to go.” Her eyes fill.

And I know. I know without asking that her teacher’s gruff voice and brisk moves just- aren’t her way.

“Learning experience,” “You won’t always like your teachers,” “Thicker skin,” swirl through my mind.

But she halts me with words of her own, “Swimming used to be my favorite, but I don’t like it anymore.”

And I am, indeed, halted.

Because even though I’m looking into these eyes-

Kayli, 2012

It’s these, that I see-

Kayli, 2004

I pull her close, squeeze her tight (tighter) until I feel her give against me. “I’m glad you told me,” I whisper.

I did that part right.

But then, I went to the supervisor, did all the talking, and called Jason for backup.

(I’m pretty much the mom that I hated when I was a teacher.)


We lay shoulder to shoulder. Her damp hair splays across her pillow, her vanilla lotion sweetens the air between us.

With every fiber of my being I want to say, “I’ve got this. You? Don’t have to worry about a thing.”

But I need to smooth the road that I roughed.

So what I say instead is, “We’ll be there next week, but you need to speak up.”

Loosen, but don’t let go.

(I’m trying, it’s hard.)

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  1. LOVE! Sheesh I have so much to learn about parenting!

  2. You are such a great mom! Your kids are so blessed to have someone in their lives that is willing to both stand up for them AND let them take the reigns when needed. Beautiful post!

  3. Lovely post! It’s true about looking into their eyes and still seeing them as the baby they once were. My post has a similar tone to it. She’s such a cutie!

  4. Until they speak up, we help them out. This was so sweet!

  5. BalancingMama (Julie) says:

    Wow, just wow. You are such a smart & sweet mama!

  6. So hard. Tech Support is almost 13, and sometimes I still want to sweep in for the big rescue. Like yours, he is a pleaser. Doesn’t like to make even the littlest waves. He waits too long to say something doesn’t feel right. But he is learning to advocate for himself. And I am learning to hang back.

    So. Hard.

  7. “Swimming used to be my favorite, but I don’t like it anymore”. This kills me. Maybe the teacher needs to hear this part…..

  8. I was a sensitive child who grew to a sensitive adult. Tone of voice had and has a big impact on me. Now I have a sensitive son and I struggle to support him while teaching him that a gruff tone and no nonsense attitude from someone does not necessarily mean anger. I struggle to not shield constantly. To support and guide while letting go so he can learn to deal.

    So HARD!!!

  9. This is the hardest part of parenting. Learning when to let go and when to pull them tighter. I think you did a wonderful job!

  10. We are the advocates for our children, and sometimes they don’t speak up – no matter how close we think we are too them … and those are hard days.

  11. I get this. I totally completely get this. And while I do believe that we need to let our children speak up sometimes we need to show them how (which is what you did). You’re right, we have to let go, but I’m with you… let’s do it a little at a time.

  12. Her words would have broken my heart. Loosening up without letting go is so hard. Parenting in general is hard.

  13. Oh, yes, I know. It is so hard. I’m not fully there yet but I will be. And I hope I remember your words and keep them in my head and heart. Well written, and well done, Mom. :)

  14. Your words melt my heart. I always want to the parent who steps up for my kids, to fight for them. But I need to start letting it go. Just a little. :)

  15. You go Mama Bear — that certainly goes back to the “things we never thought we would do when we had kids” theme. Becoming the parent you once hated and protecting your child is just innate. I have a sensitive one too which I sometimes I forget because I am so….well, not.

  16. Sobbing. You know what the hardest thing for a kid to do it? Speak up. But she did. To you. For that…you should be very, very proud. You’ve taught your kids that they can tell you anything, and that will make all the difference as they grow. (I’m also the mom that I hated)

  17. Oh gosh yes. It is so hard to teach the “you have to find a way” lesson.

  18. Oh my yes. Loosening but not letting go. What a hard hard thing this is. And continues to be.

    You are such an amazing mother. I hope that I can give my children the kind of mothering you give yours.

  19. It’s the loosening up that I know I’ll have trouble with too. I want to fix everything for her. But I know she needs to figure it out for herself too. Painful lessons for them, but for us as well.

  20. I hate jerk teachers. I’m all in favor of stern, but anybody who can push a little kid to the point they don’t enjoy an activity anymore NEEDS to be told to back off. (And oh yeah – I’m somebody who the teachers either love or dread. Treat my kids with respect and help them learn? We can be a team. Degrade my child in any way? You are forever my enemy, and I am a vampire ready to suck your blood.)

  21. It’s so hard to let them take things on- but sometimes, I think they need us to be their voice too. I would have done the same thing, as I was the same way growing up. Beautiful.

  22. When you jumped from the photo of her now to the photo of her way back when…I lost it. I am struggling right now with so much for my oldest. I wish she was more self confident and could see herself the way that I see her.
    As for that swim instructor, how dare her take the love out of swimming for Kayli! As a coach, love of the game is the most important thing I can teach all of the girls on my teams. It breaks my heart to hear this. It’s not Kayli’s fault. That swim instructor needs to adjust for every student and recognize that not all children learn the same way.
    I hope all goes well next week. I’ll be thinking of Kayli.

  23. Ohhh I very much admire your ability to loosen a bit. Just from my experiences with children who aren’t even my own – aka my brother and sister – I know I’m going to have difficulty when the time comes. Many’s the time I’ve wanted to cut a b*tch for one reason or another. But they do need to learn to make their own way…

  24. You are such a great Mama!! What a tough road, knowing when to stand up and take action for your children, and when to let them handle it on their own. Great post, my friend!

  25. Aww it makes me sad that she feels that way. I think you did the right thing by speaking up, she needs to know you have her back. And by you speaking up hopefully she will be able to do the same.

  26. That line, between encouraging & allowing them to stop . . . that’s the line that I worry about finding as a father.

  27. She sounds a lot like my 8 year old, and I struggle to know when to intervene in these situations, too. Lovely post, as always.

  28. Never let go but yes, we do have to loosen our grip on them at some point.

  29. Anti-Supermom says:

    But why is it so hard to loosen? I just want to wrap him up in my arms and cover his eyes, his ears and keep him there.

  30. Oh, that baby face!

    I once heard that parenting is like a funnel(like the cooking or oil type ones) and you hold on really tight and close when kids are young and gradually loosen as they grow, like you are going up the funnel. That has really stuck with me on those moments when I want to grab on super tight.

    Btw, I’m SO the parent I hated when I was teaching.

  31. Oh Galit, how do you do it, how are you so good, so right all the time. I don’t even care if I’m the parent the teachers hate as long as my kids feel my love. I will follow your example, I will loosen and not let go because I am learning at your knee.

    She is so beautiful inside and out. Just like her mom.

  32. Scrolling down to that baby face melted my heart! Such beautiful words. Such a hard thing to do!

  33. a wonderful look into the heart of being a mom and the decisions we make and why we make them. when to push, when to concede, when to advocate. *HUG* mama.

  34. I think this was handled so well, you helped, but didn’t do it all. I feel like I learned something from you today, thank you.

  35. I agree it is so hard. Poor little thing. My 12 year old is struggling with her math teacher right now and I am completely conflicted over what I should do as a parent.

  36. The hardest thing of all. Do you know the 38 Special song along these lines? I still love it.

  37. You are such an amazingly aware mommy. Good for you. Your children know that you are always their advocate and there is security and love in that. YOu rock.

  38. This reminds me of today when G told me AT SCHOOL before the bus was leaving in 10 MINUTES that he wanted me to go on his field trip with him. I had no idea and I did think of going (days ago!) but then I planned a morning of running and errands and it was just TOO late for me to go. I told him to tell me next time. It’s so hard sometimes…

    her baby photo is SO precious and she looks so much like her Momma! 😉

  39. Oh, my heart! My dear friend, you KNOW I get this. And you are doing such an amazing job. Your children are blessed.

  40. They really grow up so fast.

  41. You’re doing everything right!

  42. I have such a hard time with the loosening up. I know we have to do it, but sometimes I just want to stay in my mama bear role.

  43. If I can half as good a mom as you, I’d be thanking the powers that be. You handled that way, dear friend.

  44. Right now my boy is still a teeny little snuggle bug, but I know someday soon he too will lose that delicious pudginess I cherish so much. I’ll squeeze him until that day comes, you can bet on that.

  45. I have advocated for my girls several times. And although it was difficult to find a balance between stepping in and encouraging them to do it for themselves, I truly believe that along the way, the times I stepped in really empowered them. My middle school aged daughter is now embarrassed by my interventions, so she uses her own voice. 😉 In some cases, I have used role-playing as a tool to help them come up with words and practice the interaction which helps to take away the fear.

    You captured this situation so well and with so few words. Your writing is inspiring.

  46. Beautiful, as always! I love the visual you gave with the photos of Kayli – it’s so true, we see them as babies, no matter how old they are!

  47. Pssst.

    Just to let you know:

    You will never be able to let go.

    You will always see the face of the baby whose diaper you used to change.

    Even when they’re standing a full foot taller than you.

    So I’ve heard. *wink*

  48. That picture! And I know – it’s so, so, so, hard. YOU are doing a great job. YOU are a great mom. Your love shines through everything. And “loosen but don’t let go” is my new favorite line.

  49. oh my goodness. I feel like this so often. I see my “babies” instead of my children. It IS so hard.

  50. Wow, great advice, Galit! I know it’s tough, but you’re doing beautifully! A lot of us really admire how well you handle this crazy ride’s that’s parenting :)

    Good job, mama! I’m keepin’ this in mind!

  51. These things are so hard. I know the feeling of wanting to be right there all the time to take care of things and not let go. You handled this beautifully and of course, your words are always perfect.

    I need to find a moment to write about my eldest, who was born independent and has told me she doesn’t need me or anyone else helping her. I have never even been allowed to hang on for her, and I wonder when she will come to me and ask for anything at all, because I think I sort of need her to need me.

    And when I look at my kids I see them as they are, as the day they came into my arms and as the people I hope they will become. It’s crazy being a parent!

  52. The photo comparison?! That’s what got to me. You are such a loving and kind mother and it shows through in your writing. Keep on your amazing work and keep trusting those mama instincts for when it’s time to speak up!

  53. Oh, gosh golly. I know this so well. Such a relatable tale, so beautifully rendered. And those photos? Delicious. The perfect complement to your story. xo

  54. I truly feel after I read your posts that I need to have a “what would Galit do?” talk with myself. You just always have such awesome instincts. And that picture? How does that happen so fast! I need a pause button.

  55. We may be raising the same daughter.
    I feel your pain. And your love.

  56. I will always be in his corner making sure that if he doesn’t speak up and it is totally unfair that he has a spokesmom.

  57. I love how this started…I always feel like I’m running a boot camp in the mornings trying to get my kids to school on time. Glad to know I’m not alone.
    What you are teaching them is priceless…it took me a long time to stick up for myself.

  58. Oh, I’m not looking forward to loosening my grip. I’ll have to think hard and folllow my instincts when I do, though. Sigh. Parenting is hard.

  59. Beautifully written as if I was right by your side. And the picture of your daughter as an infant made my heart just ache for her. Thanks for being her advocate but still encouraging her to move forward. What a beautiful gift you gave her.

  60. I think that is going to be the hardest part of parenting….letting them go and speak up for themselves…but at the same time we have to advocate for them when they can’t…sigh…so hard this parenting business!!

  61. what a great post. Perfect… holding tight… but letting go a little. love it.

  62. You are a great mom, Galit… Don’t ever doubt yourself! And the two photos of your daughter side-by-side just melted my heart. It’s amazing how soon they grow and assert their independence… but deep down she is still that beautiful little girl.

  63. Oh Galit! This one struck hard.
    It’s a fine balance and you’re doing a phenomenal job.
    Good for you.

  64. I think moms are the most amazing people on the planet. Your writing is beautiful.

  65. I don’t know… you don’t sound to me like the parent that teachers don’t like. You are helping her and the teacher to solve the problem. Kids can’t be just tossed into the fray without some guidance, especially not those who are more careful about speaking up. I never talked back to my teachers, so sometimes my mom helped me figure out how and what to say. Good teachers understand this, and the bad ones? They won’t like you regardless of how you try so carefully to speak up. I think I’d like having any one of your kids as my student!


  1. […] back.  Suddenly it  reminded me of this piece I read recently at my friend Galit’s place, Loosen but Don’t Let Go.  I want her to LIKE gymnastics and she won’t if I bully her into taking this class.  I […]