We were at my son Ben's home. Granddaughter Alice, who will be 2 in May, was doing her "I'm too tired to be in bed" thing, so her dad held her on his lap while she snored.
The kid has gotten big. Another foot, she'll be hard to cuddle. Ben knows this, so he happily holds her now.
But Ben is already realizing that his baby will continue to grow and, eventually, leave Dad -- him! -- behind.
Not all at once, of course. Bit by bit.
The first big jump will be preschool, "and that means I have to trust her to others," he said.
Very carefully selected others, of course. Still, others.
"That's why you see mothers crying when their kids go to kindergarten," I said. "It sucks, but you have to let them go."
Ben snuggled Alice tighter as she snored away. Yes, I thought, it will be interesting to see this guy let his little girl go.
We all go through the process. Parents have to let their kids do what they want. How else will they learn?
(For that same reason, I occasionally tell parents whose kids won't leave to change the locks. It is for their own good, folks.)
Letting a kid go means taking the risk that the world won't be kind to your child.
I suspect Alice will be fine in preschool, but life doesn't always work out that way.
A friend of mine, Sylvia Newman, had all her nightmares come true when she let her son go. Seth Pack joined the Army, went to Afghanistan and, last June, failed to step lightly while on patrol. A mine blew one leg off and shattered the other. His insides were scrambled.
Sylvia, who thought she'd settled into a nice, quiet career teaching English at Weber State University, found herself a full-time mom again. She has been with Seth pretty much constantly since early July, which is why her reaction to Seth's latest achievement was so interesting.
Last week, Seth had surgery to remove the external fixator on his remaining leg. The fixator is a sort of Tinkertoy exoskeleton held in place by pins that go inside his leg, to the bone.
As you can imagine, those pins need to be kept clean where they penetrate the skin, and Sylvia did that.
Seth has gradually regained the ability to walk and care for himself. His leg is stronger, so the external support is no longer needed, which means the pins are no longer there to clean.
After the surgery, Sylvia posted this note to her blog:
"Without pin care to do, I am almost out of a job. There aren't many things that Seth can't do on his own now, and it means I have to reassess my role.
"One would think I would feel relief -- and, of course, I do -- but there is also a sense of let-down. We all like to be needed."
Oh, Sylvia, that kid is always going to need you.
You said you are scheduled to come home at the end of March, which means you will have spent a second nine months getting your son ready to face the world.
This time, he's older, and I will be very much amazed if your very charming son doesn't have a couple of women waiting in the wings.
He just walked a mile all by himself. He'll keep walking, just like Alice.
But both Ben and Sylvia should have no fear. Their kids will be back.
My sons are back, often, for advice, or a chat or even someone to baby-sit.
Which is fine.