The Moving-Away Part of Bonding

I woke up early this morning because I wanted to say goodbye to my daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren. Saying “Goodbye” last night would have been okay, but I wanted to give them another hug before they drove away in their minivan.

Seeing them drive off reminded me of the following poem, which I wrote fourteen years ago, when my oldest grandchild was a baby.


His little bug hugs and little bug kisses
Went away, this morning, in a big red car.
All that’s left is “baby smell” on the sheets of his
Crib and hundreds of silent pictures.

Part of bonding is moving close to someone
And part of bonding is moving away, so the experts say.
I prefer little bug kisses to theories,
Yet, in my grandmotherly way, I will adjust.

My goodness, what did I say?
My “grandmotherly way”?
Why, that little bug hasn’t gone away at all.
He’s crawled right into my heart.
He’s changed my identity!


At first I could not see any advantage in having my grandson live so far away from me. I was afraid that if he did not see me very often, that he would not remember his grandmother. (But which is more important–that he remembers me or that I remember him?)

Fourteen years later, I know that that was a groundless fear. Although he now stands above me, my grandson is just as generous with his hugs as when he was a toddler. The twinkle in his eye when he sees me is just as bright. Being separated physically has not separated us emotionally.

Moving away—placing some physical distance—in a relationship is necessary for emotional growth, and actually makes bonds grow stronger.  Why?  It’s an opportunity for building trust and self-confidence. Although, I might, as a parent or grandparent, resist the moving away part of bonding, I know that it’s important.  Letting my children  go involves believing that what I’ve given them is enough and trusting them to make wise choices—not always perfect ones; ,but then, do I always make the perfect choice.?

For me, letting my children (and grandchildren) go, also means trusting  God, believing that he loves and cares for them, even more than I do. I pray for them and trust that he will be with them at all times.

My children have a sense of self-confidence that they would not have if I had insisted that they “stay close to home.”  I miss them, but I’m happy and proud of the way they meet challenges in life. When they come back, I feel overjoyed, and  I am working on being more joyful when they leave.

How do I intend to do this?  In my heart and mind (and sometimes on paper), I will remember and record the conversations, the smiles, the hugs, the games we played, and the meals that we ate together. I will look at all of the pictures that I took. I will keep the memories of all our “togetherness” times tucked away in my heart. And when I feel lonesome, I will look review those memories and be thankful.

My children and grandchildren will always remain in my heart. How could they not? They are part of my identity!

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