From the first moment of birthing a baby from the womb into the world of sudden cold, brightness and newness, we are in the process of letting go of these precious beings into their own lives. The management of the balance of holding safely and letting go is the art of parenting. It may be many years before you watch as your fully grown yet not at all fully formed young daughter or son look more to their futures without you than their past cuddled up next to you reading a book, clinging on tightly and fearfully as you leave them in someone else’s company, preferring to be with you over anyone else in the universe. Those days are often fraught with fear that this child will never be able to play by herself, will be too clingy to ever want to be independent. But when you have watched the whole process unfold—from not being able to go to the bathroom without a child attached to some body part to not knowing what goes on in their days, even weeks—you will look back longingly to those moments when you were the most important, safe, comforting haven in their lives.
I remember when my son first went off to boarding school at fifteen, and I didn’t even get to see what he had chosen to wear that day. Too young, I thought. He needs to be home. Never would it have been my choice. But his path took him outward and onward. Yet while I was home yearning for him, agonizing over missing his coming and going, his laughter, his lightness, he too was feeling homesick and missing the same comforts of being together. His yearning for home though did not last more than a few days, while mine have never really ended. Oh I’ve gotten used to it, but while the reunions are filled with hope and joy, the good byes are always hard. From the beginning of his departure from our regular everyday life, I have felt a bit like a heartsick lover in unrequited love. I would have been on the phone with him many times a day but I had to hold back and let him live his life trusting that what I had given him would hold him steady in the pursuit of his dreams however successful or unsuccessful that pursuit.
Now he’s fully grown and married. A very different relationship develops when your children become adults. It’s wonderful and daunting. It’s been years since I could tell him what to do. That process has to start from the beginning so the relationship stays strong through adulthood.