When I was walking into school with my daughter the other morning, I had one of those moments when the world quietens itself for a moment, and one becomes suddenly aware of one tiny detail. The detail was my daughter's hand in mine - soft, small, and warm. She chattered away and probably didn't even notice I was holding her hand, so normal an event as it is. But one day she won't want to hold my hand any more, and that day may not be far away.
I felt sad for a moment, poignantly but discreetly feeling her little fingers curling round mine. And then I felt elated. My heart drifted suddenly from down to up - I could almost feel its movement in my chest. I realised that if that moment was about to come, the moment when her hand was no longer in mine, then it was perfect. It was just as it should be. I would have done my job. My job is to make it so that she no longer wants or needs to hold my hand. To say, 'alright darling', the day she chooses to no longer place her hand in mine, and 'I love you' as I use my hand instead to wave her off.
As we walked and she looked up at me and smiled, scenes from her future appeared before my mind's eye: I saw her lovingly taking a friend's hand to comfort them; I saw her wiping tears from her own face; I saw her hand looking adult, grown-up and strong, and yet also one day once more slipping inside the larger hand of another, but so different this time to the parent's...the hand perhaps of a man she will love, being squeezed, and squeezing back.
Her hand will only be able to do all these things, because, at just the right moment, it let go of mine.
And mine of hers.