Letting Go

Originally published Thursday, 05 June 2014.

You don’t normally find me on a bike in my work clothes, cruising my neighborhood. But when my little one insists he can walk the dog himself, this is what I did, because this is precisely what moms do. We cast our dignity off and throw our shoes on and cruise. On a bike. Slowly stalking behind my guy. I was close enough to hear his sing-song words as he talked to himself, to the dog, to the world, finding his voice that is uniquely him, unfettered. A free man in the wide world…or at least for the few moments before bathtime.

And I check that he’s ok and pedal faster, turning around the block to catch him on his victory lap home and think why yes he’s getting older, and my eyes fall back on my own yard and then I find another surprise– my oldest laboring behind the lawn mower. He’s bent over double, straining to push the mower and I think he’s getting older and I’m learning.

I am learning about letting go…about letting.

And it occurs to me that letting go always has to do with trust. Trusting that my youngest won’t get hit by a car or lost in the neighborhood, trusting that my oldest can keep himself from chopping off his own feet in the lawnmower. Trust doesn’t come with guarantees. But a parent who wants to grow trusting kids must first trust, must learn to let go in order to grasp on to the next stage, the stumbling dance of a person who’s learning to parent and a child who’s learning to be an adult.

Letting go. Just letting. Letting my oldest take control of some things and push away. Letting my youngest try something that he might not be ready for. Letting go is an action, an intentional motion, from fists to open palms, or, perhaps, prying, one finger at a time, until the grip loosens.

I round the block again, and kid & pup are not where they should be, so I circle back, through the field and the gravel road, past the tennis courts and around the playground and I don’t see him. I pedal faster and stronger because seriously, forget everything I said about letting go, this is about gripping on, and deciding that letting go is a mistake, and what kind of mother am I anyway, and I push strong around the curve and then I see him, tears streaming down his face, on the stairs of our own home, back at home base.

The dog’s too strong for me! he cries. He made me go too fast! I ran the whole way!! and he sobs again, and the big boy act is over. The adventure is finished for the night so he lays his head in my lap and I stroke his forehead and now I am not letting go, I am holding tight, and the curve of his cheek and the upturn of his nose remind me of the earliest days, when I still carried him, and trust was in the closeness and the presence and the smell of baby and mother, just barely separated in body, and I realize that from the moment I delivered this child I have been letting go.

This is the bittersweetness of our love and life. We find joy and sadness in the passing of time and the growing up. We suck in our breath when we realize that they are becoming something so far beyond us. We cling tightly to the moments of hair-stroking and hand-holding knowing that it is good that they grow and it is so sad that they grow.

And we realize that our lives, too, have been a series of letting go. Letting go of what’s held us captive, the words and the wounds and the person we didn’t think we could be. Letting go of our self-centric ways of seeing the world and people and our future. Letting go of control of it all–the people, the places and the times that define us. We grow and we release ourselves to the control of the One who made us, and we venture out and try new things, and sometimes we find that we’ve stepped too far and we cry and return to Him and we are comforted. And then we try again, and we cry again, and try again.

Someone once said, “courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” So we find courage to face tomorrow, whatever it might bring. And we discover that letting go is mandatory for living free.