The Lesson My Daughter Taught Me About Letting Go

My eleven-month old daughter is a reacher.

She reaches for her favorite book.

She reaches to stand up.

She reaches for outlets and cell phones and electrical cords.

It doesn’t matter whether the item is forbidden or not, my little girl wants to reach for it, explore it, know everything about it. Words like, “patience,” and phrases like, “stop and smell the roses” mean nothing to her.

It’s almost like she has a reaching reflex.

In fact, sometimes I think she doesn’t even know why she’s reaching. It’s like she just points in some direction, and at the end of her finger is a random item and yes, that’s it, that’s the thing she cannot possibly live another moment without.

“I see that….that….that…that piece of junkmail. I must have that piece of junkmail! I must have it immediately!”

Now reaching is generally a wonderful quality. I’m certain it will lead my daughter to great discoveries in life, because reachers are passionate and curious and unstoppable. But reaching is only as good as the thing that’s being sought—it’s one thing to reach for a book and another to reach for a sizzling pan.

And I know what I mean when I say that, because if I’m honest with you, I’m a reacher myself. I have been for as long as I can remember. And it’s brought some wonderful things my way—a solid education; great professional opportunities; a terrific spouse.

But like my daughter, sometimes I reach for the adult equivalent of an electrical outlet or junkmail. Sometimes I don’t need the things I’m reaching for. Sometimes they’re not good for me. Sometimes I’m reaching just to reach.

And reaching just to reach is about as good for me as it is for my little girl.

So as I watched my daughter stick her hand out towards a heating vent the other day, I thought, “There’s a lesson for both of us here, a lesson about letting go.”
I need to let go of reaching for the sake of reaching because I don’t want to reach indiscriminately. I want to reach for the things that matter. I want to reach for love, for goodness, for the all that makes me and my community whole.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to accomplish this, especially since the instinct to reach is about as reflexive for me as it is for my little girl. But I’m pretty sure it starts with some awareness. So from now on, every time I find myself reaching, I’m going to stop and ask, “Why am I reaching for X?”

Is it out of jealousy?

Fear?

Love?

I’m making this choice not just for myself; I’m also making it for my little girl. She’s not old enough to choose what she reaches for, so I want her to see reaching modeled well. I want her to see the good that comes from healthy ambition, from fighting for your beliefs, from questing for a dream, from loving with every bit of your heart and soul. But there are also some things that aren’t worth the reach, and I want her to know that too.

Becoming who I’m intended to be starts with my choices. It starts with what I choose to seek in life, and if I reach for the wrong things, I’ll lose myself. So I’m letting go of reaching for the stuff that isn’t worth it and choosing the things that are.

From now on, I’ll be trying to reach in the right direction.

And hopefully my little girl will as well.

Photo via tulips & flightsuits

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