Letting Go and Holding On

The other day a Facebook friend of mine said that he was tired of people posting pictures of their kids all the time. Ad nauseum. He said that he became friends with us on Facebook to find out about “us” and what was going on in “our” world, not to see some lame dance recital or another kid graduating from high school wearing a colored cardboard square on their head.

I reflected on all my recent posts and noted that probably over 50 percent of my posts were about my kids. Possibly maybe slightly more. Like 78, or 82, or possibly 95. And I thought, “What if this IS me?” That I am my kids and my kids are me and without them there is no other existence.

I imagined that terrifying moment when your whole family is involved in a fatal car accident (okay, don’t call me morbid, you’ve all done it at least once, right?) and you walk back into your house for the very first time after leaving the hospital and there it is. The stark, raw, black hole of nothingness that turns your body inside out, tossing up your soul to suspend, hovering outside of the atmosphere, no longer able to connect with any living human on the planet. You have become an alien. A foreigner trying to learn a language that hasn’t been written.

And when I richocheted out of my existential melancholy I decided right there and then that I would keep posting pictures of my kids on Facebook for as long as we both shall live because they are me and I am them for as long as we get to continue together. They ARE what is going on in my world. They are the clock face of my day, and I am the minute hand and the hour hand and the second hand circling around and around. Dancing in circles of delight around everything from their first steps to their first bra to their first dance to their first time behind the wheel of an old minivan.

I have stood at the top of the Eiffel tower with my arms wrapped around their little shoulders. Watched their eyes turn into saucers in the roar of the Olympic stadium in London. We have hiked through Zion and fed carrots to buffalos. They have cheered me on at numerous triathlons, pumping tiny legs down the home stretch screaming, “Go mommy! Go!” We have handed out Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to kids in Tijuana, and fed the geese in Arnhem. We have hollered unpleasant words at each other, slammed doors and shed tears. We have folded laundry, watched episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy, and played giant games of Catan. We have sat silently at the table, half asleep, slurping up the remains of the milk in our cereal bowls. We. We. We.

And I know that in a few short years their daily existence won’t be what I spin around. They will launch into the world and there quite possibly might be 24 hours at a time that I don’t know what they are doing. Maybe weeks. Ok, not weeks. Never weeks. Unless they are going into Ittoqqortoormiit or something. But I won’t know when they have a biology test, or a life group event, or need to get their eyebrows waxed or a new pair of tennis shoes.

A part of me is proud of this concept. That they might be able to plan events or create a schedule or hold down a job without me. Seriously, that is the end goal of this whole deal. And another part of me just truly wonders what that universe will be like. It won’t be like they’re gone for reals. But they will be gone from my daily news reels.

So I’ve been thinking about this idea of letting go. Letting go of what I know. Without tragedy. Without denial. Without “oh my God, my life is over.” Without imagining a fatal car crash scenario.

Just exhaling today. Inhaling tomorrow. And opening an occasional bottle of wine.

Or a bag of trail mix.

Like I did the other day when  I was on an airplane flying home from Hawaii where my daughter was being courted by a little school called Chaminade who wanted her to come play volleyball for them in the fall of 2017. The coach took her to Lanikai, and we hiked the Pillboxes and looked out over the turquoise majesty. We ate malasadas at Leonards. She met the team at a practice and got to spend the night in a real dorm. She participated in a biology lab, and we snorkeled in Hanauma Bay. College? Right. More like paradise.

So, we’re sitting next to each other on the plane ride home and she’s journaling. And journaling. And journaling. And I’m desperately wondering what she’s putting on those pages. When she looks up at me with those intense hazel eyes and says, “I think I’m ready mom. I think I can do this. I’m ready for college. Now.” (She’s a whopping 16 years old.)

I nod. Close my eyes and take a deep breath. She’s right you know. She’s ready. She’s been to Guatemala without me. She has played in several national championship tournaments. She is the secretary of a major volunteer organization at her high school of almost 4,000 kids. She makes good decisions in regards to her heath and the party scene. She values sleep, friendship and hard work. She drives herself everywhere she needs to go and makes wise choices about how often to spend money at Starbucks.

She startles me out of my reverie with the question. “Mom, do you have any food?” Fortunately I had grabbed a few bags of macadamia nuts and trail mix at the airport so I handed her a bag.

I leaned back in my chair and listened to her wrestle a bit with the plastic. I imagined those little chubby hands trying to open a zip lock when she was young. The hands that exist when knuckles are still little indents rather than pointy knobs.30.7

All of a sudden I feel a tapping on my arm. I look up imagining that little 3 year old tugging on my elbow. But it’s this elegant 5’10” wonder, saying, “Mom, I can’t open it.”

Without a moment’s hesitation I take the bag from her, and using my teeth, I rip off the corner and hand it back. Our eyes meet, and we burst into hysterical fits of laughter.

“So, you’re ready to go off to college, but not quite ready to open a bag of trail mix without me?”

She says, “I use the resources available to me.”

And I guess that’s what letting go and holding on is all about. Trusting that you never become obsolete. As long as you are an available resource you will never lose your significance even when you lose your proximity. And in those moments when you aren’t readily accessible, they will figure out how to open a bag of trail mix.

My work here is done.

Said no momma. Ever.


I’m posting on Letting Go with several wonderful friends. Check out Megan’s thoughts letting go!


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Showing 5 comments

    Such good thoughts on motherhood here. I love that story on the plane! So perfect.

  • Sarah D

    So well written. Loved your perspective and the way you wove this together Susan.

  • Meg

    Gosh, I love your style and your stories. I’m working on letting go and holding onto trust too. Thank you, I love you!

  • Pat Harris

    Ok, I am in love with the clock analogy; it is so true. I know it is cliche, but it is our job to give these temporary gifts of God roots and wings. Rachel’s wings are fluttering and almost ready to fly. But it is okay because you and Dan have given her amazing roots connected to her family and a deep spiritual source that natures her into the magnificent young woman we all know as Rachel. Yes, she will fly as you did when you were her age. She will fly off to college and V games that you won’t always be there to observe. Maybe she will date a creepy guy or two that she will know immediately that they are creepy and blow them off. Why, because she has those deep roots that go with the wings. It is our job to let them go and experience life, just look at the latitude Christ gives us. I’m not going to tell you it is easy, or that you won’t miss her, but the joy of watching our children fly is beyond description. It will be okay to cry; it is a part of the letting go process. Just remember she has deep roots that anchor every wonderful aspect of that amazing young woman you call Rachel.

    • susan

      Pat, thank you so much! This was so beautiful and encouraging. Especially since the two that you have launched are both inspirations to me!!! It’s a crazy journey. But being a grandma seems like heaven! 🙂 Love you!

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