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Each Little Step Becomes Bigger

This past weekend my oldest daughter went to Girl Guides’ Camp.

We reviewed the camp itinerary.

We practiced and learned how to make a bed roll.

We labeled all her belongings.

We worked together to pack her duffel bag.

I did the “mom thing” and went through the list of the things she had to remember:

  • Always wear your Epi-Pen belt… only take it off at bed time.
  • Don’t take off your allergy bracelet.
  • Only accept food from the camp leaders.
  • Make sure you put your glasses in your eyeglass case.
  • Don’t wait until the very last-minute to go pee.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Remember your manners.
  • Listen to the adults.
  • Don’t wander away from camp.
  • Do what’s right… not just what others are doing.

I think it got to be a little much because my daughter started saluting me and saying, “Aye, aye, Captain.”

As we dropped her off I hugged her, I told her I loved her, and shared my most important “rule”… to have fun.

She smiled and said, “This is going to be the best camp trip ever.”

Then she snickered and said, “It’s the only camp trip I’ve ever been on but it will be the best.”

She looked so little carrying her duffel bag and her bed roll.

Each little step becomes bigger; watching our children become independent

I hugged her again.

As we drove away something surprising happened.

I started crying.

I don’t know why it surprised me. I cry over everything but for some reason it surprised me. Maybe it was because we were so busy preparing for the trip that I never contemplated the emotions involved with saying good-bye and letting my child take that first major step of independence.

I wept and all I could see was her little face… so happy, so eager, and so grown up.

Watching your children grow is a simultaneously beautiful and painful process. Each change is a victory for them yet a mountain for us to climb as we realize our babies are growing up. Fortunately these changes start small… a coo, then a smile, a word, a crawl, and a step. Then they have their first birthday party, their first class, their first sleepover, and maybe a camping trip. One day there will be a first date, a first dance, and perhaps college, marriage, and babies of their own.

Each little step becomes bigger and with each step I can only pray that I will be brave enough to encourage and support my girls as they evolve into the independent, competent, and capable individuals I’ve always known them to be.


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Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, Deliberate Homeschooling and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care. 

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80 thoughts on “Each Little Step Becomes Bigger

  • Janine Huldie

    I have truly had so many of these moments lately with both my girls and admit that I am a crier all the way and choke back tears more often then not. I know will get past these moments and new ones are just itching to surface, but still can truly and totally relate. Hugs mama!! :)

  • Jeanne Kupsh

    Big hugs, Jennifer!! It IS hard letting them go, bit by bit, and I can tell you that it doesn’t ever go away! My oldest two are gone and married, and I still feel that same feeling of both pride in them, and sadness that they had the audacity to grow up and leave me, lol! I have to remember to hogtire my youngest because I don’t think I’ll be able to bear it when it’s her turn. *smile*

  • Amanda @ Growing Up Madison

    I’m just like you Jennifer, I cry whenever something big happens with my kids. I remember crying the first day of Kindergarten, first graduation and I even cried when my oldest went off to college this year. We love them and want them to grow up but we also want them to remain “mommy babies”. I don’t even know if it gets better with time but we sure learn how to control our emotions better. Here’s to a great week ahead my friend!

  • Tara

    It is certainly bittersweet watching our kids reach another milestone. I’m not sure it ever gets easier, but we do get better at moving from one milestone to the next. My middle son went to his first school dance and first date this month. I wasn’t ready, but I am so proud to watch all of my kids grow into the awesome people that God has destined them to be! {even if it’s happening faster than I’d like…}

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      Thankfully we have small steps which help us get used to the idea of change and growth. Imagine if we had to leap from crawling to dating?!

      I wish at times I could cling to them at this stage but each age and stage has memories and moments of their own.

  • Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

    Many bittersweet moments in parenting. Every year, the first day of school gets me. But now that I’m parenting a child who will never reach many of these milestones, I have a wider perspective. Instead of grieving the loss of babyhood and childhood in my neuro typical children, I celebrate their abilities and rejoice in the fact that they will be able to live independently someday. Plus, I have the joy of having a grown child who *chooses* to keep in touch, drop by, etc. So I know that even though all those milestones *seem* to be taking my kids away from me, they do wander back. :)

  • Ceil

    Hi Jennifer! What a scene you paint here of letting your little one spread her wings a bit! I think I would have cried too. Mom’s get so worried…her allergies, will she make friends? Will she be warm enough, eat enough…it’s endless. Good for you for letting her go in spite of your fears.
    I love her sense of humor though. What a gift that is! My daughter used to say “Aye, aye captain” too, and it always cracked me up!
    I can’t wait to hear how it went,

  • Susan Evans

    As a mom, I find it hard to let my kids go, too. I think of all the negative things that could happen to them, and I don’t want to take the chance. But then I realize that if they don’t do more things on their own, they won’t be prepared to leave home and be independent at age 18 either. You let them grow up a little at a time…

  • Betty Draper

    As I look back to the steps of letting go I realize even more the affect they had on our children who now have children of their own. Looking back always bring some regrets but mostly it has brought great comfort knowing as imperfect as we were as parents our children did pick up some good points through us. I know we tried hard to prepare them for each step which is impossible. So many steps have to be taken and sometimes missed for wisdom to gain its ground in their hearts. As a 67 grand mother I love watching our grand children take these steps and love seeing their parents go through the same concerns we did. Now in the winter of our life I know we still have a few more steps until we take the final one big one. Great post. Insightful

  • Ana Lynn

    I can completely relate to this since I had to hold back the tears when our daughter started school this year. No matter how much I promised myself I would be strong and telling myself this is normal part of life, it still happened. I imagine I will get emotional with every major milestone with all my children.

  • Lauren

    I never used to be emotional… until I had kids. Now everything makes me cry :P For instance, yesterday my hubby mentioned looking for land to build a house on. We like our house now, but he’d really like to be somewhere more private. I totally agree with him, but was suddenly in tears at the thought of leaving the house our kids have grown up in. We haven’t even begun to look for land yet!!

  • Tiffany (A Touch of Grace)

    I’m about to cry thinking about my daughter going off to a camp (although I’ve been on the verge of tears the last 3 days for the silliest things). I don’t blame you for crying mama, it’s hard. Our babies are growing up. It’s hard to let them go.


  • Jessica Dimas


    Ugh, I can’t handle the thought right now. Not past the first sleepover or the first camping trip. I don’t like to think of my babies out in the world without me watching over them or without me in control. No one will protect them like I would!! Or so I feel…

    I know it has to happen and that it’s good and it’s so exciting for THEM…hopefully my mom heart can take each growing step with more bravery than the last!

  • Jen@JENerallyInformed

    Oh that picture is the cutest!I would have pulled back around and told her to get in the car :)

    My oldest just turned 13 and I worry so much that there are only a few years I will have her at home and be able to parent her in the home. This makes me both heart sick and excited to see her grow into the beautiful and amazing young woman she is and know that there is more growth and amazing experiences to be had as she transitions into adulthood. Luckily, we have a little more time for that :)

  • Echo

    Big, BIG hug! Watching our kids grow and sending them off on adventures is so bittersweet! Especially when they have special needs like food allergies! I am right there with you! I look at my sweet boy everyday and can’t believe how much he has grown!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      Thanks Echo. The allergies definitely make it challenging. There’s no room for error. However, I have to let her do things too. It’s such a fine line.

      This is the one part of parenting that I struggle with… I just want to hold on a little be tighter and press the pause button.

  • Shilo

    Aww! Brownie Camp brings back some really awesome memories for me! It’s a great program and I learned and grew so much because of it! She will do wonderfully!

    I know how you feel about these milestones! My baby boy is turning two years old in two and a half weeks and then he officially won’t be a baby anymore! All season I can feel my anxiety over it build (21 months old…22 months old…23 months old! Aak!) It all went by so fast and I sure wish I had more time with my squishy little baby. But he is happily learning new words every day, growing like a weed, and developing his own dance style. He completely ready to tackle the world as a little boy (and probably is already). This Mama just isn’t quite ready. Sigh!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      She had such a fabulous time Shilo! I know Girl Guides is so awesome for her and I’m thrilled we can give her these opportunities. She’ll learn many things and make so many great memories with Girl Guides, I’m sure!

      It’s hard to watch our little ones grow so quickly. If only we could pause time, just for a little bit. It feels like I blink and everything changes… again!

      I find everything harder with my youngest. In part I think it’s because she’s my last baby. Every milestone is a last. It’s gut-wrenching.

  • Sarah Nenni Daher

    I kind of want to hug you right now! There have already been times in my little one’s short life in which I’ve experienced this same thing, and I know we’ll face so many, many more. My joy of her becoming her own person is in constant struggle with my desire to keep her my ‘baby.’

    Oh, I need to go hug her right now. :)

  • Rebecca

    I definitely would’ve cried home on the drive home, even if I said I wouldn’t. I’m a big cry baby, I also cry over everything lol you have her some great rules and I love Hahahha LOVE her salute to you. Lol hilarious! She is such a good little girl. But why must it all fly by!?!? That can make me cry right now if I think about it too much!

  • Brittany Bullen


    Oh my goodness, we are the SAME!

    I want to cry all the time! I never want my babies to grow up! I mean, of course I do… but I so DON’T! Why does motherhood make us so insane? It’s really beautiful and horrible. =) Thanks for this. I feel like I’m reading my own story here.

    How’s the book planning coming?

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      Motherhood DOES make us insane!

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only weepy mama!

      The NaNoWriMo planning has been slow. I made great outline progress last week but this week has been hectic and I haven’t had nearly as much time to myself. I hope I can hunker down and get some work done over the next few days.

  • Tamara

    I wish I could cry every time something big happens. Mostly I get paralyzed with fear instead.
    This is a big one, though! Scarlet hasn’t had her first sleepover yet, except for at grandparents’ houses.

  • Misty

    Sigh. I went through this over the summer with my oldest. 2nd trip to camp, first trip really alone. I found that we just have to Trust God. He loves them more then we can fathom. It was SO hard, but she came home excited about what God did while she was there. It’s bittersweet really…. Now, remind me of all this, this summer when my middle (with asthma and food allergies) goes to camp.

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      Trusting God is so important… their His children too. I just wish I wouldn’t be so weepy. At least I didn’t cry in front of her. I would hate to give her any kind of anxiety about the trip because I’m bawling.

      I will remind you of your good words of advice :)

  • Ann

    I FEEL your words. I love watching the littles grow, but man does it do a number on the heart. It’s like we are trying to juggle so much love and our heart just can’t take it so we just cry. And I’m pretty sure I just cry at everything, so you’re in good company. Ha!

    I remember my first overnight and I was about her age, too. My mom lost it. And when Mads goes on her first, I plan to lose it, too. It all goes by SO fast. Hope she has a blast!

  • Cindy Hasko

    I just left you the longest comment ever and it did not go through. Grrrr :( So if you get two comments from me….well, ummmm, yeah, lol. I typed that…. aweeee…So happy that your daughter is having fun, but sad that your heart is missing her. She will have a great time. I was never a crying type person until I got pregnant and since I had a baby. Now, I cry all the time. Crazy, lol!! I know the feeling though, because I will be a nervous wreck when it comes to that point for my son. I don’t trust him with anyone, except for my hubby and my parents. In fact, my son has been with my parents since early yesterday and will be sleeping over their house again tonight since I am sick with a sore throat right now. :( We don’t want him to get sick. I am sitting on my couch, in my pink pj’s and my pink Miami Dolphins T-shirt watching “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” with Ben Stiller and typing to you :) Well, I miss my son terribly right now, can ya tell!?, augh,… but I know he is in good / safe hands and he his having a blast!! Also, my parents are in heaven. They adore him so much. I talked to him on the phone earlier and he said “Hi Mom!!…Bye!” So, even when we miss them, it’s good for them to explore as long as they are safe! :) I cannot wait until he comes home!!!!! I miss my little buddy so much and when I dropped him off, I cried too. I feel ya! Big Hugs!! xoxo

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      I did get your other comment. Akismet is catching a whole bunch of comments in spam right now, so that’s probably why you though it didn’t go through.

      These are growing experience for them and for us. My daughter had a blast at camp but I really did miss her so much.

      Thanks for sharing… I hope you get better soon!

  • Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life

    It IS hard! I remember the first time my daughter flew by herself and we went in to the airport and I thought I would at least walk with her a little ways in and she said something to me like “you can go now, I’m good.” I think she was 13 at the time. And then on the way back, she got bumped…who bumps a kid traveling by herself and they rescheduled her coming into a much bigger airport at 1 in the morning. I was beside myself…she was completely fine!

  • Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    Of course you cried! I saw that coming at the title. When my children were still babies, I remember watching a few empty-nesters fall apart when their children left home. It helped me to keep my children’s childhood in the perspective that they are only mine for a very short time and that my job is to prepare them to fly away one day. While it isn’t easy, it does help to have that thought process. In your wisdom, you are already there which is half the battle. I know she will have a wonderful time. How are you holding up? :) Thanks for this reminder today. It’s something we moms need to hear over and over.

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      It’s a challenge to let them go… but it’s so important for them to grow and explore.

      My daughter came back from camp and she had a fabulous time! I did okay. I didn’t sleep well while she was gone but I held up okay. The next time should be easier… right?

  • Remy

    I know the feeling Jennifer, last year my son entered to the Junior Leader Ship program at school, and the had a trip to Italy from one week, they were going to have students from all military bases in Europe in that event. Yes, my son was leaving for the first time for one week. I didn’t cry but I felt so empty that week without him. However, I knew this experience was one in his lifetime and he need it to be part of it.

    They grow very fast, and every time things like this one happen I look back I remember the first day I dropped him at preschool :)

  • Emma

    What a beautiful way to put it! Yes, raising a child is both wonderful and wonderfully painful; if we do it right, the child grows up to leave us. You worded it perfectly!

  • Chelsea @ The Contented Wife

    Loved this sweet post, Jennifer. She looks adorable standing there with her camping gear. And I loved how she started saluting you! :) Precious. I definitely know what you mean. It’s so important for them for them to grow and learn a bit of independence, but it’s so hard on us mamas. I can only pray that I take these steps in stride and not hold my kid(s) back from growing up when it’s time. When I was growing up I never considered it being difficult for my parents (my mom is very strong) but looking back I’m sure it had to be!

  • Debbie

    Hi Jennifer, your daughter looks really sweet holding her camping bits and pieces. i think you handled it just right. As parents we have to remind our children of what to do and what not to do and reminding them to have fun too is important.

    Sadly they do grow up, but with every stage of their lives there will always be room for Mum (and Dad). They will always need a kind word, a bit of advice or a loving hug…They will always need their Mum….And when that time comes you will be brave enough to encourage and support them, because that is what it’s all about. xx

  • Susen @ Dabbling Momma

    beautiful post, Jennifer. It is hard to see our babies grow up but at the same time that’s what we are trying to do as parents to prepare them for the next step and the one after that and on and on…I can’t even imagine what you felt as you watched your daughter walk off to her camp. Simply watching my son walk into his school in the mornings grabs me in my heart every day. What happened to the little man I use to hold in my arms and take with me EVERY where I went. It’s bittersweet….

  • The Reading Residence

    She looks just adorable there. My kids are just 5 and 2, so I’ve yet to deal with them going away, but my daughter just started school a few weeks ago and she was so happy and looked so grown up, and I just sobbed after she went in! It makes me so proud, but so sad – being a parent is emotional! #ShineBlogHop