My friend recently shared a photo of six girls with their arms around each other’s shoulders. Third from the right: me. We went to Kindergarten together, some of us pre-school as well, and we were six years old. We looked so happy in this picture.

Photo: Sublime Photo Art

Fast forward to now: I am lucky to have amazing friends. But I look at my rainbow daughter who is three and a half years old. When she is six, will she have what I had?

My mom took my brother and me to story hour at our local library every week in the years before we went to pre-school. We had lots of play dates (although they were more like “play drop-offs”) at our house and at our friends’ houses. I met friends at school, through my parents’ friends, and at kids’ activities. It felt carefree, though it was the eighties, so times were different in a lot of ways.

My daughter has had a different experience so far. She loves to play with other kids at the playground and at the in-home daycare she goes to one day per week, and that’s pretty much the extent of her peer interaction. Playgrounds are hard for me, especially if they are crowded. It is usually my husband who takes her because I get overwhelmed.

As a loss mom, a rainbow mom, and really as a parent in general, it feels innate to want to protect my rainbow with all I have. I lost my first child. He was just gone. And she’s here, with all of the wonderful and scary things that being a parent to a living child can bring.

Home feels safe. We have this magical little world. My husband and I are both educators and musicians; our daughter is always singing. And she loves to see her extended family. If we could just keep doing this, I would love it.

But when I saw that picture of me and my friends with my mom nowhere in sight, I saw what’s coming. Opportunities away from me. Letting go. And if we’re lucky, her happiness within friendships like I got to experience when I was younger.

The fear that is holding me back is exactly what she needs me to let go of. My strong desire to control everything around her is really no match for the fact that I can’t. And for her sake, it’s better if I don’t.

In spite of my anxiety, she is already growing. I am the one learning to let her go. To watch her as she climbs on her own when I want to be right there. To give her space to be one hundred percent her own person. To love and support her without standing in her way. I’m learning and growing and she will, too.

Tracy’s rainbow, Ainsley Hope

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