Letting Go and Holding On
Parenting is no joke. For all of you who are way beyond me in the parenting game, I can feel you smirking. Either that or you are saying “Amen” right now to all my laments. And for those of you who don’t have kids, don’t write off this blog post because I think there’s something in it for you too.
So I am a mom of two teenagers, and the struggle is real. I have sweet, kind, funny, talented, good natured, smart, fun, good human beings for kids, so don’t get me wrong. And we have been very, very close all these years. But I am being invited into something right now that most parents with teenagers are… Letting Go.
The kid that I left my career for, chose to stay home to be with; the kid I breastfed and put in a Baby Bjorn to carry along with me to garden, cook, and grocery shop; the one who first called me “mama”; the one who invited wonder back into my life and we would “ooooh” and “ahhhh” at the giraffes at the zoo; the one I taught to tie his shoes and pee in the potty; the one who kept me up in the night with the flu and who almost died at birth; the one who I cheered on at the sidelines of soccer in the pouring down rain; the one who I have held crying over skinned knees, disciplined in order to learn, wondered about God’s presence with and prayed over to be taken care of; the one who I have read Good Night Moon to a million times; the one who I have done countless homework projects with; the one whose football number is always in my sight on the field during the game… he is exactly where he probably should be right now, but I am not.
He has let go of my hand. He doesn’t hold wonder with me often anymore. He has sought out other voices in his life. He has chosen friends as his closest companions. He has formulated his own opinions and he has his own dreams for his future, and those dreams don’t necessarily include me. And of course, he no longer requests my goodnight.
Just writing these words hurts my heart. I have that little lump in my throat. I’m such a mom 😉 This is totally normal, I try to remind myself. There is a push and pull between teenagers and parents. They push us away, they pull us back in, and this back and forth can happen in the matter of minutes. The love I feel for this kid is unmatched. I cannot explain how much it hurts to experience this completely normal developmental change. Some of you are diagnosing me right now… I can feel the stares. And some of you remember doing this to your own parents. And some of you so resonate with the distance that you are feeling between you and your kiddos.
I remember taking a parenting class when Aidan was a baby and the teacher suggested the goal was to raise independent adults who are no longer dependent on us, but who are dependent on God. So, I suppose this pushing away I am experiencing is exactly where we should be. Independence doesn’t look like dependence. It looks like it can stand on its own. It looks like it needs less. It looks like it can fly solo. It looks like it can handle making a grilled cheese sandwich.
We have raised a kid who is going to think his own thoughts, have his own relationships, dream his own dreams and not need me to be his faith, his conscience, nor his Chief Decision Officer. If you’re saying “duuuuh” right now- I get it- I know it too, but letting go is so hard. Because what if we let go of something or someone we love and we lose that closeness forever? What if there is just distance ahead? What if the miles between us grow and are never gapped?
Here’s what I’m learning and the invite God has placed before me: I am being invited to let go while also holding on.
Letting go while holding on is the hardest thing we ever have to do. How do we love someone with all our heart and release them at the same time? How do we let someone go while also fighting fiercely for our relationship? How do we hold onto our greatest desires and hopes and let them go all at the same time? It’s agonizing, really.
I am being asked to allow Aidan to walk his own path, to begin making his own young-man decisions, to seek God or not for himself, to choose who he will surround himself by, to let him choose what voices will be his teachers, to pave his own way even if its a way I would not walk. I am being invited to give him his space, to ask more questions and give less answers, lectures and sermons. I am being invited into allowing him to fail, to fall, to mess up and learn his own lessons even if I see them coming right around the corner with a swift hard kick in the pants. I am being invited to allow him to dream nonsensical dreams and believe they are possible, because who am I to say they aren’t?
But at the same time I am being invited to let go, I am also being invited to hold on. I had a very clear sense with God that I am to let go while also fighting for us. I am watching grieving, sad parents facing the same thing I am who have just assumed that their relationships with their kids are going to suck and suffer and be distant from here on out. And I can’t do it. I can’t be laissez faire. I can’t buy into the idea that this is the way it’s supposed to go- we were close but we won’t be close and that’s how moms and sons are. I can’t throw in the towel because I am so tired of fighting to compete with the phone, the friends, the Snapchat, the Fortnite, the whatever it is that’s more shiny and exciting than my middle-aged lovely self.
I’m not gonna stop fighting.
I will let go. I will back off. I will receive the invitation that my son is moving from being dependent on me physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally to him becoming independent. And hopefully independent on God. But I will not stop fighting for what I hope for most. And at the end of the day, or shall I say, my life, my greatest hope is that my son still comes around – that he wants to talk about life and faith and play Gin Rummy 500 and explore beaches and ride bikes and laugh like crazy with me by his side.
I can let go but still hope for engagement and relationship. So I sat on a couch with him a few weekends ago and after a really, really hard Saturday together…I heard him out and I agreed to let go a bit. But I also told him I will never let go of the idea that we will always be close. Close might look different but I am not going to stop fighting to engage you. I’m not going to stop asking how you are doing. I’m not going to stop trying to spend time with you. I’m not going to stop choosing time together over all the other things that beg for our time.
“I’m going to fight for us, buddy” is what I said.
Sometimes I think we need to know someone will fight for “us”. Sometimes I think we need to hear from someone that no matter what happens they are choosing us even if we aren’t choosing them. I know changes are ahead. I know we aren’t gonna be walking hand in hand at the zoo anymore. That’s so last decade. But I am going to start mastering the art of letting go while holding on.
I’m holding on to closeness. I’m holding on to bonding. I’m holding onto moments together, that in the very end we will be able to look back upon and joy will arise at their thought. I’m holding onto family openness where we can be real and speak truth. I’m holding onto the idea that even if we choose differently we will always choose each other. I‘m holding onto my boy even if my boy no longer holds onto me.
But I have to let go at the same time I hold on.
Oh dear, how do we be a people who do this gracefully without fear? Life invites us in many seasons, relationships and desires to let go of the things we love while also hoping for them…
We have to let go of dating relationships while also holding onto the hope that God has the “someone special” we desire, waiting for us.
We have to let go of broken relationships that seem irredeemable and yet grasp onto the crazy possibility that God can reconcile anything.
We have to let go of our tight grip of the vision we have for our own lives while also leaning into those dreams with hard work and intentions, watching to see what God could do with, either, our letting go or our holding on.
We often have to surrender our plans while not growing despondent or callused, but instead choosing to be a people who while surrendering, lean into the plans we hope for with a willingness to give them up, all at the very same time.
We have to let go of our citizenship here in this world, God says, because we are citizens of a heavenly place. And yet we are called to hold onto what we have here by stewarding it, caring for it and being as intentional as we can with the one life we’ve been given.
Friends, if we can figure out how to let go and hold on at the very same time, we might be the most faithful, peace-filled, joy-radiating people around. Letting go requires TRUST no matter what happens and holding on requires HOPE in what we cannot now see. And I want to be a woman who is full of TRUST and full of HOPE.
I want to be a mom who trusts God for my kids while also hoping for more than the less-than-average, disengaged, argumentative, angsty, distanced relationship that we expect comes in this season of life. I want to trust God in the hurtful relationships I have experienced while also holding on to the audacious idea that God can redeem anything– even those. I want to trust God with my big dreams and be willing to walk away from them if they aren’t meant for me, but at the same time be willing to risk leaning into those very dreams because what if they are?
TRUSTING God enough to be willing to let go, while also holding onto HOPE is one crazy dance. So I told Aidan we would do this dance. I will give him space and I will get in his grill and care about his life. And that’s how it’s gonna be. I don’t know another way. I’m not giving up hope. I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m not settling. But I’m also releasing him little by little into the hands of a very Big God who knows what He’s doing with my son because He’s his Father.
Wherever you’re at in your life, whatever invitation is being placed before you, my hope is that you will be a people who let go of what you hold onto too tightly while also holding on tightly to the idea that what is good and beautiful and glorious and loving is also possible. My hope is that as you walk away from something broken you’ll still hope for it to be redeemed. My hope is that if you’re having to let go of an idea you had for your own life, you will let go but not stop dreaming. My hope is that you will live this one life you’ve got in such a way that you’ll have left it all here when you go, but don’t hold on so tightly to it that you’re not ready to let go when it’s time. And lastly, my hope is that you’d know if you ever have to let go of something you love, you can hold on tightly to your God who loves you.
Let’s be a people who accept the invitation to let go and hold on at the very same time.
So beautiful and authentic!! Love ❤
Well…that made me cry. The thing is is that you’ll always be his mom and he’ll always be your boy. Always. Even though he might act like he doesn’t want or need or even like you sometimes, he knows you’re there with your arms open, that you will be there for him no matter what, that you’re his biggest fan and cheerleader. See, he does want you to be his mom ( and as he gets older your friend again), he does need you. He does like you. He can go his way while you let go a little knowing deep down that he is safe in your love for him. And weirdly, I find that as you let go a little, allowing him to be independent, that act can make things easier. But of course…don’t ever let go 🙂
Yes i am watching and learning from all of you that have gone before me and I am taking furious notes!
Willow, you do such a good job of putting thoughts to words. There are so many parts of this that resonate with me. I love trusting God, having Hope, & letting go.
Blessing on your journey! ??
Thank you Janli…trust and hope on the beautiful journey of being a mama:)
Beautiful Willow! We can hold together as mama too! Pray pray pray!
Or we can sing “ We are all in this together”
Lol hs musical
yes we are in this together!
I felt your pain. It really hurts bad to let go and let them find their way, it is a deep loss that only a mother knows.
But I have great news for you! They come back!
My sons are now the ages of 44 and 36 and I have grandchildren now!!
I am still their Mom, and they still come to me to talk about life.
Yours will too! It just may seen like a long time.
They love you Willow – you are their Mom !!