Letting go is not an easy thing to do for one – moi – who is used to managing things. This is especially when I have to let go of who-is-now a young man, filled with enthusiasm for life, feeling entirely invincible. But then I know better, don’t I?
I still remember his need for me to be there for him, to provide safety, nurture and nourishment. To provide guidance in all things so he would learn how to walk, to eat by himself, to dress himself, to structure his studies, to manage his time, and the list continued. Parents know, and most children will eventually realise, the amount of effort and time it takes to raise a child.
In the days leading up to when he had to leave on his first holiday without me, I interrogated him on his preparation, double- and tripled-checked his plans – I’m sure he was as frustrated as I was, in my urgency to see him being 100% ready.
A week has passed, and he is still alive. Fancy that 🙂 . He has occasionally contacted me to get my views, and in this, I was assured he would seek help when he needed to. And that he was sufficiently aware of when and what that would be.
I have not entirely bought into the dominant narratives of “mothers know best” and “mothers will always worry”. They are not necessarily true. Neither am I ascribing to the “a good mother should or must always know or do for…” narrative. There are boundaries that a parent cannot cross.
These boundaries hold his identity, his sense of self and his self-efficacy. How often I cross these selfdom boundaries will impede his development and independence as surely as it would be a barrier to transition and growth in my life. And these boundaries are fine lines indeed.
So how do I protect him and keep him safe, as a mother are wont to do, without keeping him a child?
My answer, trust and love without judgment.
I must trust…me. That I have been (and am) a good enough mother, that I have instilled moral values to steady him, that I have taught independence and responsibility well, that I have guided and modeled what it means to be a decent human being, that I have demonstrated that good sense and fun can go hand in hand. I have to trust that I have taught him well. And I trust he has a good head upon his shoulders, a good heart as his compass and that he will remember the lessons from when we were together.
I am letting go of any habits of looking over his shoulders, the compulsion to plan it or fix it, the belief of “mother knows best”, the doubts and needs to verify everything; I am letting go of my fears.
Then, all that is left is to love him with minimal judgment. I have not quite attained the “no judgment” level… yet ;-). His decisions, though may differ from mine, are made with integrity. And he knows I will always be here, his safe harbour. This will be, I am certain, the first of many voyages this ship will sail.
I will stop feeling guilty for not conforming to the dominant narratives of what a mother ought to do. Not this one, she knows all is well. Moreover, some things are just beyond her control, so why fret?
So I will watch, with a mother’s heart, this young man realize his strengths and vulnerabilities, and come into his own power.
We have to resist following them into the wilderness and trying to make it safer and more civilized. Every cell in our body will want to protect them from the hurt that comes with standing alone. But denying our children the opportunity to gain wisdom directly from the trees and dance in the moonlight with the other high lonesome renegades and limping outlaws is about our own fears and comfort. Their hearts need to know the wild too.”
– Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness
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