I still remember the day it happened. It was the day I'd dreaded since the day my son was born. It didn't occur at high school graduation, or when he went off to college, but it arrived much earlier than I could have imagined.
It was the day I had to start letting go.
I was driving him to school - sixth grade - and I reached for his hand like I always did. I loved those morning minutes together, listening to the radio or talking about school, or hockey or airplanes. And mostly, we held hands across the console.
But this particular morning, he moved his hand just as our fingers touched. He looked out the window as if nothing was amiss, but I knew in that moment that something had changed. We'd turned a corner.
I pretended I didn't notice, probably pretended I was brushing a crumb away, but my heart did that kind of weird stretching/melting/breaking thing that happens when you're sad, happy, proud and bewildered - all at the same time.
You'd think I'd have been prepared for this. My daughters, who are several years older than him, had already transitioned from kids to young women, and we'd already experienced the bumps, bruises, and triumphs along the road to their adulthood.
But this was my baby. It felt like the end of an era...and in some ways it was the first tiny step toward it.
I wish there was a roadmap.
I wish there was an exact GPS that tells you what to expect and how to respond to the changes that growing up brings. I wish I could say that I parented well, that I led with confidence and that I made all the right moves. The truth is, I blundered my way through my kids' adolescence. I embarrassed them with awkward comments, often used guilt to motivate them, and balked at each new step toward independence. I wasn't real smooth. I cringe at some of the memories, and wish I could take them back. But somehow, we all moved forward together and made it through. We learned as we went.
Learning to let go is an art.
And like any art, it must be practiced diligently to become good at it. Studying under the masters, the people who have gone before, is the best way to begin. You study their techniques, you watch them work, you see the beauty that can happen on a canvas. You're inspired, but nervous.
And then, you must pick up the brush, so to speak, and start painting. Your first strokes will be clumsy and amateurish. The piece will lack color and depth. You think it is garbage. Hopeless.
But you keep working at it.
Eventually, with more study, more repetition, more brush strokes, and a lot of starting over, you begin to get the hang of it. You start seeing that it looks best when you leave the lessons behind and start painting from the soul. It doesn't mean it gets easier, or hurts less, but it does mean that something beautiful is being created.
You pretend you weren't actually reaching out to hold your sixth grade boy's hand. Psh, what? Just gettin' that crumb. And maybe the next time it happens you just grab his hand anyway, and then lay a big old smacker on it. He groans and wipes it off, but you don't care.
Because there's no roadmap, remember?
And true art follows the heart. It takes the careful, learned brushstrokes and mixes them with a riot of color and throws it all on a canvas. You take all the "rules" and then you parent from your heart. You mess up, and then you do something right. You mess up again. You fall on your knees at night and ask God for wisdom, and then you get up and do it all over again the next day.
Believe in the masterpiece. Believe in the Master who is teaching you. Even if there is a mess on your canvas today, don't give up.
Because the art isn't finished.
Phil. 1:6 says, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion."
Question of the Day: What is one lesson you are learning as you create this "art of letting go?" I'd love for you to share!
PS. Here is another post on letting go: The "way back" seat.