I was thinking today about those two little words (Letting Go) and what a powerful picture they bring about! Letting go isn’t easy. I suppose it begins when we are infants and we are grasping our mothers finger. She may try to wiggle it loose and the more she tries, the more firm our grasp becomes.
As children, when we are going to school for the first time, we hold tight to our Mothers hand because we don’t feel ready to let go when it is time for her to leave us behind. In some cases, the Teacher may lean in and grasp our other hand when Mother lets go, in an attempt to make our transition a little less frightening. Mother may let go of our hand with an understanding smile on her face, all the while reassuring us about what we are about to experience. We are not as certain of our future good time as she is and we can feel our eyes fill with tearful anticipation at being left in a strange new place without her.
Soon comes the time when it is Mother who wants to continue to hold our hand and we begin shaking her hand loose from ours because we don’t want to look like a “baby” in front of our friends. “Mommy…please LET GO!”
“Letting go” is more than just the physical act of doing so. For parents, it is also releasing the emotional and parental ties we feel towards our children as well. We have spent almost half of our life, or more, attending to the nurturing of another soul and we do not want to relinquish this role. We always knew the time would come when they would leave us behind, but as much as we try to prepare for it, it is never easy. We think we are well prepared to let go of our children as they go off to college, or the military, or just life in general. When the time arrives, we feel this doubt that they can get along without us, quickly followed by our shame filled fear that they will. We really do understand that letting go is as critical to our children’s maturity and development into adulthood as it is for us to feel the satisfaction of a job well done in our parenting roles. Still, while the mind understands these roles and rules of life, it is difficult for the heart’s eye to watch them move on into their lives and gain their independence from their family of origin and from us. In some ways, we feel that their gain is our loss.
Sometimes, our adult children may feel exasperated with us when we continue to hold on to the old relationship roles we once had with them, because we fail to understand that they don’t need nor want us in their life as we once were. We graduated right along with them as they entered life as adults, but while they were busy adding to their repertoire, we were subtracting from ours. What were we subtracting? Well, we were shedding…..them! At least, the “them” they used to be. A whole new family dynamic awaited we were not at all sure how that would play itself out.
Young adults and middle aged children prefer a Mom and Dad who are there to serve and observe but to not necessarily be actively involved in their daily lives, particularly if it is in our former role of “Family Director”. So, time being our friend, we once again learn to “let go” and let them grow into the person we had raised and hoped they would be.
More time marches on and then it becomes our children who may have a hard time “letting go” when it comes to their own children as we observe with a knowing smile.
Time continues to march ever onward and our children find themselves surprised to feel discomfort in “letting go” of their own parents, or at least the person they had come to understand their parents to be. At some point along the way, the roles reverse and it is we, the parents, who are grasping our children’s hands as we step out of the car, or navigate across the street. It is now they who feel the sense of loss when they realize we are no longer the strong, independent nurturer who once guided them to the thresh hold of their adult life. They begin to see a crack in our veneer, a fading of what once was, and with a reflex action, and a stronger grip, they may try to hold on to our former identity with a sense of propriety. They deny to themselves, and to us, that we are diminished and less than we once were. They see our mortality in our face and their emotional grasp becomes even tighter in anticipation of what they will eventually lose.
The day arrives when we are lying in our bed with our exit not far away, and it is their hand we are reaching for. If they try to release our hand for even a second, we grasp tighter, because we feel they are the anchor to the only life we have ever known, and we are afraid that without that anchor, we will be drawn into the light of our next life. We are never really ready to leave those whom we love and know. The familiar is so comfortable to us, we think that the unknown can wait, can’t it?
In the beginning, all the way to our very end here on earth, letting go is really the gift we give ourselves, for it is only then when we will see what bounty awaits us. There really are no true endings, just a series of new beginnings. Letting go is really as simple as understanding that in doing so, our life lays before us with all the possibilities we cannot imagine on our own.
Having trouble “letting go”? One cannot begin anew until you take your eyes off the past and gaze into the future. Try it…you may just be amazed!