As parents, we are called upon to let go from the very beginning. But this is a tall order—I know I wanted to snuggle my little bundle close and breathe in his newborn-fresh scent forever. But that infant turned into a baby, right before my very eyes. And my baby quickly became mobile and walked his way to being a toddler. Change is so fast and furious in growing children that we are hard pressed to keep up.

But keep up and let go we must. We have all boarded the train of growth and development, and now there is just no stopping it. Toddlers become young children. Children morph into tweens and then teens who require razors and privacy. They continually challenge us to keep changing ourselves. We are most up to the task when we stay as present as possible and enjoy the ride. The truth is that we don’t get to choose whether or not we let go, only how and when.

Knowing how to let go also helps me when I want to choose my battles. I try to say “yes” as much as possible and save “no” for when I really need it. But this too, can be trickier than it sounds. Just this morning my son, while drinking juice in his car seat, asked for his milk. As I reluctantly handed it to him, I heard the voice in my head chastise, Why do you need both cups? Jeesh, one thing at a time, kid. But I kept my mouth shut as I peered into the rearview mirror and watched him clink his two sippy cups together. When I saw him slurp from one and then the other and smile wide with delight, I had to ask myself why I didn’t want him doing this. Was it too much of a good thing? Would this make him greedy? Was I imagining the cups filled with vodka?

There are plenty of reasons why it’s hard to let go, and one of them is fear. Overcoming these fears is something we have to do again and again in order to let go. Some fears are certainly justified: we rightly worry about our children’s safety and well-being. Others are somewhat irrational, such as my being afraid to bestow an abundance of beverages on my son, lest he not be able to withstand the “real world.” But the real world is merely what we, and next generations, make of it. So here’s to the present, and also to the future. May you find pleasure in each step of your parenting journey—and have a slug of diluted apple juice on me.

This post was originally published as an article in the January/February 2010 issue of Parent & Family.