Learning to Let Go

I had a learning opportunity this past week. Not a course or certification or something like that, but a life lesson in the fine art of learning how to let go. Let me say this, right up front: It was not easy. It was so “not easy”, in fact, that I have diddled around and avoided writing this post all week, just because I didn’t want to think about it or face up to my feelings on the matter.

Life isn’t static, no matter how much I want it to be. I’m an adult. I’ve had “adult status” for quite a while now. And so, I know this. People I love have gotten older. People I love have died. I’ve lost beloved pets. I’ve lost friendships. I’ve lost my optimistic, sunny outlook on life. I’ve lost faith in myself. I’ve lost my way. The point is this: I have let go. My life has been a series of times when I have had to say good-bye and let go of things I have loved. You would think I would be a pro at it by now. You would think I would be all, “Oh. It’s happening again. That whole Life Is Changing, Gotta Let Go thing. I’ve got this covered. I can do this.”

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It doesn’t work that way. No matter how many times I have to let go or say good-bye or figure out how to cope with the way my life shifts and changes and flows along, it just never works that way for me. I’m not a letting go person. I am a clinging to the things I love with all my might and wishing for nothing to change kind of person. That’s a mouthful. It’s not any easier to live than it is to type.

So … my lesson for this week.

My Child Unit is a freshman in high school this year. She just turned 14. She is a great kid. She is funny and smart. She is creative and weirdly wacky, which I love. She has purple hair and loves elephants and cats. And she still enjoys doing stuff with her mom. I love this, most of all. But, you know, she’s growing up. This is not easy for me. I feel like I’m totally okay with it, and then … BAM! It all just hits me, hard, right out of the blue. And I mean hard. It takes my breath away and makes me want to cry.

Child Unit is in marching band this year, and they have practice several times a week. On Tuesdays, they practice from 6pm-8:30pm. School gets out at 2:55pm, and Child Unit texted me this past Tuesday to ask if she could stay through after school until band practice. She was going to hang out with her friends, and they had plans to walk to a convenience store for snacks. Even to an old fart like me, it sounded like fun. And I could tell she was excited about it — a first, tiny taste of freedom and independence. I can still remember the heady, exhilarating feeling of that first outing with my friends, independent of my parents. It’s normal and healthy. It’s a rite of passage.

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Of course, I said yes. She was very up front about their plans. She told me where they were going. She agreed to the street restrictions I proposed (as in: please don’t cross the insanely busy highway because people are idiots and don’t watch where they are going). She promised to text me as soon as they got back to the band hall so that I would know she was safe. She is a good kid. She is a responsible kid. And she deserves this. She deserves to stretch her wings. She deserves to learn how to be okay without her parents hovering around. She deserves to feel that sweet, terrifying, exciting freedom of being her own person.

The rational part of me knows all of these things. Because it’s logical. She has to live in the world. I won’t be around for forever, and it’s better for her to learn how to do this sooner rather than later. The rational part of me is glad she wants to do things on her own, with her friends.

But … the completely bat-shit crazy, irrational person who lives deep in my heart wants to scream NOOOOOOO! There is a crazy lady inside of me who wants to stop time, hold on tight, and make sure my sweet daughter never grows up. Because my crazy lady … Well, she’s crazy. It’s not that I want my daughter to stay static and be a little kid forever. Even Crazy Lady doesn’t want that. To have her grow up, become independent, and live a happy life is the goal. It’s what I’ve been working toward, from the moment she entered the world. Just … I kind of want her to do all these things in plain view of me, so I always know where she is and what she is doing. That’s not a bad thing, right? I mean … totally rational. And sensible.

Not! I know that. And Crazy Lady knows it, too. We both hate it. Rational me hates it a little. Crazy Lady hates it a lot.

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You’ll be happy to know Child Unit, Rational Me, and Crazy Lady all survived. I took a lot of deep breaths and said a lot of prayers. Child Unit had a good time with her friends, remained safe on her outing, and texted me as soon as she got back to the band hall at school — just like she promised. Overall, it was a huge success. It made me happy to see how excited she was when I picked her up that night after practice was over. She told me all about where they went and what they did. I loved hearing those stories.

And yet, there was a touch of bittersweet sadness underneath it all. From the moment she entered this world, she has been growing and changing. First steps … first day of Kindergarten … first day of Middle School … first sleep-over … first field trip … and so many more that I can’t even think to list right now. All of these things have been carrying her away from me, little by little. It didn’t seem possible when she was two or seven or even twelve. The idea that she would, one day, walk away for real seemed foggy and far away. Now, though, it isn’t. It is coming. I look at my daughter and see a woman growing out of the giggly, silly little girl. A beautiful, amazing woman, who is strong and sweet and confident. A beautiful woman, who is walking away from me and into the future that lies ahead.

And that’s okay. Because I will always be back here, cheering her on — no matter how hard it is, and no matter how many times I have to learn to let go.

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