I've only cried at a handful of movies in my life, and I'm embarrassed to say that a cartoon now makes the list.

That's right, I bawled like a baby at the end of "Toy Story 3" this week. Maybe it's the fact that I'm nine months pregnant and cry at Huggies commercials, but this show really affected me.

In case you haven't seen it, the premise of this edition of the "Toy Story" saga is that Andy is going off to college and leaving his toys — and childhood — behind.

The toys face a dilemma as to whether they should stick by Andy and wait for him to one day reclaim them from the attic, or if they should start new lives as day-care toys.

But this movie was about a lot more than toys for me. I couldn't help but see the parallel between the position the toys were in and the plight of all parents when their little ones grow up and leave the nest.

The toys decide it is their job to "be there for Andy" no matter what. If that means waiting in a dark box in the attic, then so be it, as long as they are there "when he needs us."

Isn't that just how it is for parents?

The relationship isn't about the parent; it's about the child.

Just like the cast-off toys in the movie, it's our job to be there, waiting for when our kids need us again.

When they do, we'll undoubtedly lurch into action, reach out our arms to hold them and love them. It doesn't matter if they've been waiting for a day or a lifetime, parents know they will always be there with outstretched arms.

On the day after I was married and drove away from the house for my honeymoon, my dad went into my room and sat on my bed.

He looked at all my toys and trophies and childhood things I left behind. He sat there for a long time, just looking at the life I had built and now left for the next step.

When I called later that night to tell my mom and dad that I missed them and loved them, my dad said, "Erin, you have no idea how much this means that you called. For a parent, it doesn't get better than this."

I didn't understand at that moment how a simple phone call could mean so much. I understand now.

I understand as I watch my 3-year-old daughter grow up a little each day. She still needs me. I'm still mommy and can do no wrong. That will change. It has to; I want it to.

And when it does, I'll let her go and wait.

I'll wait until I get a phone call because her college boyfriend broke her heart or until she needs to come home and do a load of laundry. No matter how long she goes between phone calls or what she does or who she becomes, I will always pick up the phone. I will always reach to hold her.

Just as Andy says at the end of "Toy Story" about his beloved Woody doll, "Now, Woody, he's been my pal for as long as I can remember. He's brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he'll never give up on you — ever. He'll be there for you, no matter what."

And so will I. Whatever my children need, I'll be there — always.

Erin Stewart's blog, Just4Mom, can be found Tuesdays and Thursdays on DeseretNews.com. E-mail: estewart@desnews.com