My son’s big strong arms wrap around me in a firm, comforting hug and I thought, “I don’t want to let go.” I pated Ryan’s back like I had done since he was a baby, and we move apart. I looked up at his handsome face and wondered where the years had gone. Voices were calling his name; he waved and walked toward a group of friends and I was left watching him stride away, tall, handsome, a man.
A mixture of pride and concern filled me as I observed the crowd growing; people were talking and laughing, hugging and shaking hands. The flowers were beautiful and so was the bride, but I did not want to let go, not yet, there was so much more to teach him. There were many lessons I wanted a second chance at teaching and some situations I wanted erased from his life. Had I equipped this young man enough for marriage? I knew our family had been an imperfect example of a Christian family; I knew at times I had let him down. I knew at times his dad and step dad had let him down. How would this affect his marriage?
I’d been down this rutted road of introspection about my parenting before. When he graduated from high school I spent days maybe even weeks in deep thought about how there was so much more to teach him but time had run out. Emotions deep in my bones consumed me, I wanted time back, but that’s not the way it works, there are no do overs in life. I did not want to let go.
When Ryan moved out of the house I was strong, trying with all my might to find happy words and attitudes to show I believed in him. I watched him just a little closer observing his daily habits and making pictures in my mind to hold on to. We packed up his room bickering at times about what was a keepsake and what was garbage. An area we had never seen eye to eye on so I made a box of keepsakes knowing he would want them later in life. I enjoyed the bitter sweet flavor of shopping with him for needed household items. We strolled through Wal-Mart’s fine furniture section finding a desk and end table that would withstand young adult male treatment. There were bath towels and dishes to purchase and through it all I held a stiff upper lip that cemented my smile into place.
That was until I went grocery shopping at Safeway alone to fill up the cupboards in Ryan’s new kitchen. There in the middle of a canned food isle the reality hit me like a tornado and my stiff upper lip started to quiver; I broke down and cried. Tears ran down my cheeks and my nose ran; I was helpless to stop them as the reality of his not being at my kitchen table daily hit me hard. I did not want to let go. I wanted more time with my boy.
I thought about walking Ryan to the local elementary school to sign him up for kindergarten. I held on to his hand just a little tighter not really wanting to let go; enjoying the sensation of his small soft hand in mine. The school secretary, pleasantly plump and smiling, asked for his birth certificate and I carefully place it on the cold, hard counter top, emotions welling up inside of me. I did not want to let go.
My deep thoughts were interrupted by a friend who said how beautiful the wedding was and how beautiful the bride was and what a fine young man Ryan had grown into. I smiled one of those deep, knowing, solemn smiles and said “thank you, its prayer and the grace of God that has made my son who he is.” I heard my words like they were being spoken to me not by me and their truth resonated deep within my spirit. The truth is that prayer works, God is there and we are all imperfect. Lessons are never completely taught, we spend a life time learning them. We all want more time and grieve over parenting mistakes, our children do have scars from imperfect homes, but God is there and prayer works. Our lives were not perfect nor will they be. Our children’s lives are not perfect nor will they be. I looked at my son and saw through this knowledge that he is perfectly imperfect, a work of God’s hands, and a creation still in progress.
Letting go is not my favorite part of parenting, obviously I struggle with the concept for many different reasons. However, the knowledge that God is actively working in my children’s lives comforts me and through prayer He helps me remember that I’m not releasing my children into a cold world without protection and this protection will help them in areas where they may not have been prepared fully for the challenge.
Psalms 17:7 (NIV) I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Psalms 65:6 (NIV) You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
Psalms 69:16 (NIV) Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me.
Psalms 86: 6-7 (NIV) Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.
Quote: “The mother – child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.” Erich Fromm
Debora Shelford Hobbs