Last night I was visiting with a friend who recently got married. We were talking about how special her puppy dog is to her and how her husband teases her about being so over protective of her dog....as if it were instead her child. She said to me, "I don't know how you Moms do it. How do you love something so much and are able to let them go? There are so many ways for them to get hurt." It was a statement of respect and awe.
I jokingly made reference to the idea that yes we love our kids and it is hard to let go, but as they go through their teenage things, there are days when when want to open the door for them and say 'buh-bye'. I said, "Maybe God helps us get in that frame of mind so we can let them go." We laughed and then moved on to other topics.
As I lay my head down on my pillow last night, I thought about it more...with seriousness instead of comedy. The question: How do we as parents let go? swirled in my head as I thought of past experiences. When it was time for the boys to leave, I even helped them to pack. No, we weren't in the midst of incredibly horrid times. I was just excited about the new chapters of their lives. They wanted to embark on life and they were each 18 years old so why not.
Maybe it was easier for me in those two situations because they are not my blood sons. I used to resent people making reference to the idea that my heart would not be attached the boys in the same way because I did not raise them until they were teenagers and they are not my blood sons. I thought that was the stupidest thing that could come out of any one's mouth. I bent over backwards for those boys, prayed for them, cried for them, guided them, and sacrificed for them. And yet, maybe there is a small bit of truth in that statement after all. I don't know.
When it is time for my girls to leave, how will I handle it? I don't know that it will be so easy to pack up their things.
How DO we let go?
As I lay there thinking, I realised that almost from the day they are born we let go a fraction more each day. Helpless at birth, children are given to us from God, not as a creation to be owned but instead as a creation to be nurtured and shaped.....for letting go.
As tiny infants, they need us for everything...protection, care, food, shelter, and love. Then they develop their little muscles enough to start crawling around and exploring. That is when the letting go begins. (My realization is that it is oh so very soon. It doesn't happen when they are young adults, it happens when they are still babies.) As they crawl and explore, yes they need us to give them parameters, but within reason they begin to express their independence. As the days, weeks, and months fly by, each assertion of individuality causes us to have to let go a small bit more. In that letting go, we trust that they will attempt to choose right decisions and that the decisions they make, right and wrong, will help shape their character.
As I sit here with tears hitting my keyboard I see that we let go not out of any lack of care. It is not that it is easy...at all. Seeing them step into the world rips our hearts out. There are so many dangers waiting for them, so many unknowns. We let go because we care. It is because we love them with every fiber of our being that we willingly encourage them to step into the world and make their mark. Yes they will fall and yes they will hurt. But they will also do incredible and amazing things for the world.....because from Day 1, we have been their cheerleaders encouraging them to step into the unfamiliar and seek their destiny.
With God's grace and peace, I will be able to let go when the time comes. For now, I think I am going to be giving my girls some extra long hugs today.