Much of life is learning when to hold on, learning when to let go. For some of us, that lesson is especially hard, particularly when it comes to family. All too often, we end up holding on to the stuff we should be letting go, and letting go of the stuff that truly matters.
When it comes to parenting, it is much easier to hold on than to let go.
Joshua is coming into his own. No more potty accidents, he can wipe his own ass, and after a major back pack packing boot camp last night, he was able to pack up his nap items by himself. For the last few mornings, Joshua has been a fountain of love. Hugging, kissing, flashing those sweet eyes and chirping in his sweet toddler voice. The letting go has been a challenge, to say the least.
I am happy that he is becoming more self sufficient. But I am a little sad too.
Because my babies are growing up. And as they depend less on me, I find myself wondering how my role as a mother is changing. Don't misunderstand. As much as I loved that newborn stage, where they snuggled and nursed, it was EXHAUSTING. Three times over. And the stages that came after that were no easier. It was hard physical labor, constantly second guessing yourself, never knowing if what you were doing was right or wrong. Wondering when this tiny person would be able to tell you when they felt bad, what hurt, if what you are doing is helping at all.
Tough days. Rewards in gas induced smiles, outstretched, fat arms reaching for you. Sloppy kisses and cooing.
And life goes on. Sloppy kisses make way to grunts of recognition, excited tales of adventures at school. Hand holding at the grocery store parking lot. You take what you can get.
As your children get older, the challenges come in different forms, and you struggle with the decisions you make. Your brain knows the decision is a right one, your heart has a hard time believing it.
Just recently, John and I decided it would be good for Matthew to join a Tween Group at the church where Joshua goes to school. It meant a big deal to me that he try it because he would be able to reconnect with some preschool friends that attend different elementary schools. It meant that he would get to experience different experiences without us. And that was particularly hard for me. Because we have always done things together. Because I never had the opportunity as a child and always wished I had.
But more than that, I am able to see that my older son has a life apart from us. Not in a huge way yet. But it is starting to take shape. And as a parent, that is frightening. It means letting go of your child (to a certain extent) and hoping like hell that the lessons you have been teaching have sunken in, grown roots, been learned.
Yet, we still hold on. To mementos; tiny baby clothes, shaky, uneven happy faces and preschool watercolor masterpieces that help us remember and hold close the babies we once carried, fed, cuddled, and have left us to preschool, elementary school, Tween groups.
So much change. So little time. So many more to come.
For the record, Matthew had an awesome time. I think he really enjoyed doing something outside of the "circle" with kids his own age. I think it made him feel more "grown-up" to have different plans than those of his other brothers. Andrew really enjoyed being the "oldest" while Matthew was gone. He had a great time with Joshua, not having to battle for attention from him. Joshua loved having the attention of just one brother, versus the fight of two over him.
And John and I? We were a little lost, but thinking about the days when there were two instead of three. And then three. And how difficult it was, for a while. And how things seem to be calming down a bit. And how, in spite of all the ass wiping and group activities and new challenges, we miss those days of sweet baby smell and tiny fingers and toes.
And we reevaluate.
We adjust to the new role of parenting that requires less hard physical labor, but more attention to detail and wit.
You go from diaper bags to thinking about handing over a cell phone so that you can keep tabs (Hey, no judgment out there, ok? I am just THINKING about it!).
And the paradigm shifts yet again. You feel unsettled as you charter through new territory and learn to test out your sea legs. You muddle through and pray you are on the right course.
You hold on. And somehow, you never forget how it felt to want to be understood. You remember how it felt when you got to do things on your "own."
And when you see that same expression of surprise and confidence in your own child when you let go a little, you know that you are on the right track.
You let go.