When your kids are babies they depend on you for absolutely everything…and there’s no place you’d rather be than doing everything for them, right there with them, nuzzling them and smelling them and listening to them breathe.
And then, they get a bit older, and they don’t need you as much anymore. You still do things for them, but, they soon want to do everything all by themselves. You still hold them, but, it’s more of a snuggle. And you still smell them, it’s just that most times, it isn’t as pleasant as when they were first born. And you still listen to them breathe, making sure everything is okay when they are fast asleep.
And they get older still. Ready to tackle the world – or at least the swing set – without you right there to hold their hand. But, as they run off into the sunny day, they look back to make sure you are there, just in case. And you are there. There is no place you’d rather be.
Then school comes and more milestones come and go. Shoes get bigger and smellier. What were once jeans that were so long you had to roll them up, are now so short you can’t let them leave the house in them. You used to argue day in and day out for them to take a daily shower, now it’s hard to get them to take just one a day.
Suddenly, just as dusk creeps up on you when you are having way too much fun before the street lights come on, suddenly you have this man standing where your little boy was. A man who is strong enough to move the big furniture – by himself. A man who brings you ABBA’s Greatest Hits CD for Mother’s Day without anyone reminding him. A man who has, so far, made all the right decisions and is such a wonderful person and you couldn’t be prouder.
And then, just when you think you aren’t needed and that your job is done and you are a bit teary eyed every now and again because you miss him so much…the phone rings.
“Mom, I don’t know what to do. I’m so confused.”
“Okay, well, what’s going on?”
“I still don’t know what I want to do with my life? Do I want to be a doctor? Do I want to be a Private Investigator? Do I want to be an engineer?”
“Well, the nice thing is, Honey, that you don’t have to know right now. Just enjoy college and your path that you’re on right now. Get a few semesters under your belt and you’ll see that everything will shake out without you even really thinking about it.”
We talked it out for about 45 minutes that day.
Mostly, he comes around about every two weeks for dinner. We have a quick ‘check in’ chat about once a week. But, other than that, I don’t see my oldest baby. I am not there every step of the way. I’m not there to make sure he knows if bad weather is coming and telling him he needs to be watchful for ice. I’m not there to harp on him about putting his clothes away or making sure he’s taking care of himself.
Just like when he was little, though, and trotting off to the swings all by himself to talk with his friends and go as high as he could without me right there, he could still look back over his shoulder and find me…and know that I was there in case he needed me.
And that’s where I am now. Right here. So when he does have a quick question or wants to discuss the meaning of life and where his is supposed to go…he can still look over his shoulder…I am right here. And there’s no other place I’d rather be.
When we have kids that leave home it’s our job to let them. A lot of people call it cutting the string. But, I don’t think we ever really cut the string. I call my mom for advice all the time. My string, albeit six hours away, is still very much present. When my father was alive I called him all the time for answers to history questions or to answer a question I had about the bible. The string was never severed. Sure I could go to my friends or acquaintances for the answers or even Google it. But, there’s something about that string, knowing that the two people that love me most in this world were on the other end, always there, always ready, always loving, always giving. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that no matter what happened they were there, unconditionally, no questions asked. Really there.
I think we can let them leave home and still be connected, still assure them that we aren’t going anywhere. They can go out and conquer the world and no matter where our own adventures will take us we will always be there for them. We will take the call, we will visit, we will steer them in the right direction, we will help pick up the pieces if they fall, we will believe in them, we will cheer for them, and we will hold them when things aren’t going like they planned. And then we will send them off again. And someday, they will be there for their little ones. Encouraging, coaching, steering, believing, watching, and letting go. Even when they don’t want to. And we will be right there at that time, too.