In my house, English is definitely a second language (unless yelling counts). I talk with my touch—clasping Maven’s shoulder to bolster, encourage, or restrain; squeezing the Lone Ranger’s hand to emphasize a point; snuggling Brown Sugar to comfort, console, or cherish; a tap for M&M to correct, discourage, or redirect. Nursing, discipline, tickling, holding… all a part of our love language. The minute the doctor cut the umbilical cord, other ties—emotional, psychological, spiritual—bound us ever more tightly together.
But last weekend someone told me, “You’ve gotta let go.” As I wondered, When? I heard the world shouting, “Now!” and whispering, “About time” behind my back.
You know, I’m good with my little people growing up. I resist their growing away, something that can happen despite their proximity or age. And growing away is not natural; it’s not God’s way. Instead He says, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck.” (Proverbs 1: 8, 9) Chains! That sounds like it is His will that my little people draw closer to me through Him as they grow. Children raised according to the Word—and not the world—will be “chained” to our heavenly Father as they mature, and therefore bind themselves to their parents’ wisdom and love.
But people tell me that growing up means freedom, free rein, relinquishing responsibility. While I’m doing all this letting go, what or who will step up to replace me, to step in my place and run with the baton I’m dropping?
Think about it. Preschools and playgroups are jam-packed with babies experiencing independence even before they’re weaned. Schools offer one-size-fits-all instruction that covers everything from math to contraception, with baby care thrown in for those who don’t quite make the grade. Sports achievement requires year-round, full-time commitment; athletes spend more hours with their teammates than their families and rely on their coaches for manhood training. Pediatricians “invite” parents to step out so teens can talk “freely.” The media features carefree, rebellious teens eschewing their elders’ wisdom, and even churches preach prosperity, popularity, and plenty—buzzwords for this raised-on-rap, me-centered generation. Based on today’s standards, Hubby and I will find ourselves stowed away in a senior citizen’s home long before we escape to our built-for-two tiki hut in Hawaii.
Yet, my parents taught me another way to define love. Daddy visited my classroom all the time; teachers knew his name as well as they knew mine. Mama changed her schedule to pick me up from school. They sent off my sisters and me every day dressed, fed, and prepared, and made sure we brought home every book, whether we had homework or not. Daddy set many a teacher or kid straight who so much as looked at us crookedly. My marching band director taught me how to move while holding the piccolo, but my parents took it from there.
I recognize love because Daddy and Mama showed me what it looked like. We had to follow rules and obey without backtalk. My parents knew our friends, our friends’ parents, where they lived, and how long it would take us to bike or walk to their house. We had to be home by the time the streetlights came on and in the bed by the time Dallas went off. They knew where we were and we knew they were there. And somehow, we managed to grow up, go to college, get married, move away, and have kids of our own—despite all that “over parenting,” “stalking,” and inability to “let go.”
Or rather, because of it all.
Sure, I used to wonder, “Daddy, why can’t I go..do…be…?” “Why is it always because you said so?” “Mama, did you have to get the deejay to announce you were outside waiting for me?” (Okay, yes, I’m still getting over that one.) But that was because I thought as a child. I’ve since put away those childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
My parents still hold us close, physically and emotionally. Just the other day Mama told me, “You don’t have any business going to the store that time of night.” Daddy still calls me “his baby girl” and tells me to stop driving so fast and to come home more often. But it goes beyond conventional wisdom. Mama shows me what submission looks like and that the title “working mother” doesn’t have anything to do with a job but with my faith in God. Daddy models what I should expect from the head of the house yet he always yields to the head of mine (and I don’t mean you, M&M). They continue showing me what godly marriage and family mean, even though I did all that leaving and cleaving 20 years ago.
So, we’re going with the letting grow instead of letting go route. In this scenario we invest just as much time and energy in the Crusader even though he has learned to walk, is potty trained, can read by himself, and has almost all his adult teeth. It means giving him room to wander but enough pebbles in his pocket so he can find his way back at day’s end. And not just doing these things, but wanting to to do these things instead of biding my time until graduation.
Letting grow means Hubby and I “Follow,” “Friend,” “Like”—whatever social media buzzwords you want to call it. We parent Songbird, fighting the good fight despite what labels the world assigns us: stalker, clingy, “helicopter mom,” overprotective.
Letting grow means letting God. Although I might not push Think Tank from the nest, one day I will provide a step stool so he can have the proper vantage point to jump safely over the side. But God clings to them all; His love is ever present and He constantly reassures, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” no matter how high they soar or how fast they topple toward the ground. (Deuteronomy 31:6).
My little people will push me away, just as I strain against God. Even now, the Crusader has his right foot out the door and the toes of his left on the door sill. But God’s got them all covered, saying, “No, not now” even as He lays out their shining future before them and directs them toward it. And He won’t let go.
And like my Father, like daughter.