You’ve been saying it from the moment he moved without you. He would drag his chubby body across the floor with his forearms like a baby commando. When he came too close to the top of the stairs, you would dart forward, grab him and swoop him up into the safety of your arms.
“I’ve got you.”
When he first pulled himself to his feet – tiny hands gripping the edge of the coffee table – his face a gummy grin of triumph, you sat next to him ready to catch him.
When he wanted to walk, you spent hours with his fists wrapped around your fingers, bracing him as he tottered up and down the hall. Then he didn’t need your hands anymore; he careened from one spot to another. You dashed after him, always staying within arms reach, hands outstretched to catch him if he lost his precarious balance.
Then he started to climb and you hovered underneath the monkey bars. He started to ride a tricycle, and you buckled a helmet on his head. You trotted behind his bike when he moved to a two-wheeler, keeping pace with that arm still outstretched to grab the handlebars if needed.
As he got older, you stayed farther away, but never too far. Sometimes he tumbled, but you were always close enough to put bandaids on knees and kisses on foreheads.
You don’t say “I’ve got you” as much by middle school, when your chubby baby is now all spindly arms, legs, and attitude, but you think it often and with such focus and feeling that you know he hears you. “I’ve got you.”
“Let him fail.”
This is what you hear from others by the time he is in high school, when he is getting bad grades and making poor choices and you no longer know what to do. You are still trotting along behind him, arm outstretched, but he slaps your hand away. He is crawling towards the top of the stairs again . . . climbing too high at the playground . . . riding his bike too fast. You can see the fall, even though he doesn’t or won’t. It’s right there.
“Be careful! Don’t fall!”
He won’t listen, and it seems the only thing to do now is let it happen. But you’ve spent 14 years promising him “I’ve got you.”
How can you let him fall?