Letting go. It’s always been there, an innate and necessary part of the growing process. As a young adult you learn to let go of hurts and offer forgiveness in order to move forward. You let go of the false image of who you think you’re supposed to be and start taking cautious and uncertain steps down the shadowy path of who you actually are. I felt ready for these steps.
So why have I been unprepared for the amount of letting go it requires to be a parent? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t lament boxing away too-small clothes into the garage or yearn for the early days of newborn breath on my chest at 2am. But somehow there is still a resistance to them getting bigger. A knowing that as they embrace new things and explore new parts of their personality that they will be shedding some of the quirky qualities they have now, in this moment, that I have fallen in love with. When I ask what is at the heart of this resistance, I see that I’m afraid. Afraid that I’m going to forget these days in the tiredness and day-to-dayness of the small years. Afraid the next stage isn’t going to be better than this. Afraid they’re going to break my heart.
I am left with two choices. Fight against the inevitable current of change, of life moving forward, or lean in. Lean into the fears. Lean into the risks. Lean into the letting go and trusting that we will fall into a new space that is just as beautiful and dear to my heart as the place we’ve just left behind.
When I look at my daughter I see the two day old baby with the soft and slightly pointed head we held at the hospital. I see the toddler wildly flapping her arms to practically “shout” at me in baby signs that she sees birds and thinks they are wonderful. I see her now as the four year old in her princess hat. But I also see her on her first day of school yet to come, and going off on her first date as a teenager, and as a strong young woman post college.
With Josiah it is the same. I see him in my arms as a newborn. I see him now. I see him in daydreams of when he has grown into a young man. The crystal ball of my heart sees all these points in time for my children. And I’m excited. My pulse quickens and a quick “thank you” prayer is muttered inside for the 1,000th time that day.
When it comes down to it, there is no choice for parents. As parents we want to give life to our children. And there just isn’t fresh life in stuck, stagnant ponds of pulling back, of trying to make your past also be your future. Hear me mamas. This doesn’t mean we can’t grieve for moments being left. It doesn’t mean that if we do cry while folding tiny clothes into a storage bin or if we do need to say yes when the kid’s stylist asks us if we’d like to keep a locket of baby curl for our scrapbooks that we are weak or unwilling to embrace life.
It is good and, dare I say, a spiritual act to recognize the wonder in a moment and to be hit fully with both it’s goodness and how painful it will be to move past. That’s why I try to take more pictures. That’s why I do these blog posts. To remember. To file away these moments. Because remembering is an act of honor that gives me the courage to turn my face forward and believe that our next stage together will be good and challenging and wonderful all in it’s own way.
I know the answer is yes, so I won’t even ask if any of you parents of littles out there got blindsided by the letting-go blitz. I just hope you’re finding your own ways to remember and to gain the courage to fall forward. Letting go. Leaning in. And having a million silent “thank-you” prayers in between.