Parenting means letting go

I just watched my teenage son back out of the driveway with a big smile, a wave, and an “I love you, Mom!” He’s driving to Utah…alone…to meet a friend. Together, they will tramp around the country for two weeks–Sight-seeing, camping, snacks, and young man independence.

Shortly after he was born–holding my fresh, newborn in my still shaking arms–my mother-in-law smiled at me and said, “…and now you can begin to let go.” I didn’t know then the truth of her words. Parenting is about the millions of little ways that we let go of our children every day. The millions of little cuts and heartbreaks as they toddle off into the big, wide world.

My son has always been an independent free spirit. He takes after his mom. So, when he said he wanted to go travel around with a friend, I agreed. I did the same thing when I was about his age. And I remember at that time my Dad sent me with his blessing and a brand new suitcase for the road. I’m sure his heart was hurting and he was worried every-single-day that I was gone. But he never showed it. He welcomed me home and spent time sitting with me to look through the thousands of pictures that I had taken with my 35mm.

Some have asked me if I consider the consequences of letting go. Of course I do. What happens if he is hurt? What happens if he runs into danger? What happens if their car would break down?

Oh, but what happens if we hold too tightly? What happens if we refuse to let them fly? All good questions. All I know is what I saw on my son’s face when his car backed out of the driveway this evening. A smile to fill this mother’s heart for a lifetime. And for me, that’s worth the letting go.