faith

The Agony of Letting Go

We have so many home movies that were videos and now are dvds. In the late 80s when our firstborn came along, giant video cameras were becoming affordable. We proudly bought one. My husband was the faithful video guy until the kids got old enough to sometimes take over the camera. He’s in almost no movies.

My family has enjoyed watching our life on video from time to time but I always make myself busy when they are watching because it hurts my heart to watch. First, why did I have so many bad hair seasons? Secondly, why was I so many sizes? Thirdly, what was I thinking with my wardrobe, oh my, shoulder pads, really, why? And, why did my house look like that?

Those are all good enough reasons not to watch too closely but mostly I just hate that all those moments and seasons are gone. There is no denying as we watch that time is racing by. It suffocates me.

The other night, for some reason, I sat down and watched a few years with them. One was the video of us telling our two big kids that they were going to get a baby brother. We had a treasure hunt for them with clues through the house. We sure had some awesome 1990s décor going on. My daughter was sweet, smart, bossy and funny. Our middle child had a little boy’s voice and a goofy personality. They acted super happy at the news but my daughter confessed years later that they were really hoping for a pet rabbit.

That night after watching the home movies I dreamed about my boys as little boys. Toward the end, like most dreams go, we found ourselves in a river and I had to quickly scoop my youngest son out of the teeth of an alligator. It wasn’t scary, just me doing my mom thing.

The next day when I saw the two of them together, I actually said out loud, “Oh you guys are so grown up.” This is why I seldom watch our home movies. It freaks me out.

The passage of time freaks me out. Aging freaks me out. Having small children we are supposed to love and protect who grow up that fast freaks me out. One thing you can sure tell when you watch old videos, no one escapes the passage of time. Lots of our loved ones in those movies are no longer even with us, an equally unbearable thought.

That baby I dream saved from the alligator is about to turn 21. He is also about to leave to study abroad this summer in Kyrgyzstan. This is a place that is as far away as it is hard to spell. He’s going there to study Russian through a ROTC study abroad program, Project Go.

I call it Project Letting Go in my mind because how in the heck is a mother who just had a child a few minutes ago supposed to let that child go so far away for so long? My other two kids studied abroad as well but for shorter times and in easier to spell countries.

I find myself looking at my son wondering if I taught him anything at all that he will need to know this summer. Does he know how to fly internationally? Does he know people might take advantage of him? Will he guard his wallet and passport? Will he drink the water? What if he gets sick? Does he know they use different kind of electrical plugs there? Will he take enough layer for the weather? What is the weather anyway? Do they have alligators there?

Can you even imagine the hovering irritating presence I am in his life right now as he prepares to leave in a few days? A mom’s questions really accelerate for a trip like this. It’s not him. It’s me. It is the agony of letting go.

In the end there will never be enough getting ready time, enough questions, enough planning and hovering to change the fact that time marches on, my baby has grown up and I have to do the excruciating work of letting go.

I’ve felt it at every step with each child. The first time I had to leave each of them, even for a few hours, each new phase of eating or those first steps. The first days of school…moving from elementary school to middle school. Graduations. College. Trips. Sports. The pain of failure. Their first kisses, their breakups. All of it. Life.

They always tell me, “Mom, let me handle it. I can do it. I need to experience this for myself.” I always agreed with them. Yes, you can, you will, you should. But are you aware that its a little agonizing being on this end of time marching on and you growing up, especially when you were literally just born yesterday?

As long as I have breath in this body, my heart will be mothering. That’s just how it works. Letting go, it’s necessary, unavoidable and agonizing. Trusting, releasing, allowing others to grow is hard soul work.

Do you think he’s packed a decongestant?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three grown children, Mimosa/Mocha to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. She is working on letting go and trusting God.

10 thoughts on “The Agony of Letting Go”

  1. Have thought about your words for several days, thinking back on my stages of letting go – the hardest being the summer our son graduated high school and immediately left to go to summer school at his college. It was a
    time of letting him go and also spending the final months of my Mom’s life going back and forth out of town where she lived and learning to let her
    go. How could a loving God have our son away at school for the first time
    and leave me, now an only child, to deal with the final times spent with my
    Mom? Not always proud of the way I handled this time…
    And now, you are sending your youngest far away and worried about how
    he will make it. You have taught him well and he will survive- and will have
    so much to share when he returns.
    Being a daughter, parent , and grandparent is not for the faint of heart!

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