A parent remembers the first time their child grew in independence, eighteen years ago, during a game of football. The child is ‘like a satellite’ and is ‘drifting away’. The speaker in the poem finds the experience difficult and goes on to describe how the child, like a ‘half-fledged thing’, began to find his or her own feet.
Images from nature, referring to birds leaving the nest and ‘a winged seed loosened from its parent stem’ show how this separation of child from parent happens in other species too. Still, the speaker seems perplexed by it and cannot ‘quite grasp’ the need for ‘nature’s give-and-take’.
In the final stanza the parent speaks of the pain of parting from his child which ‘gnaws at my mind’. In the end he concludes that ‘love is proved in the letting go’ showing that he accepts that separation is an inevitable part of a loving relationship with his child.