My son was only about six month old when I first started teaching him to “swim.” It was sort of a trend at that time to train babies to hold their breath, flip on their backs and float in a pool. Theoretically this would save them if they ever fell in unsupervised.
It sounds really dumb now, but I was a young mom and since there was a pool almost everywhere we went in Phoenix, I jumped in (pun fully intended) with both feet. Clutching the dearest thing in the world to me, I became paralyzed when the instructor said it was my turn to let him go in the water. She spoke to me like a small child learning to ride a bike. “You can do this…let go…he’ll be OK!”
With my heart thudding in my ears I finally pried my fingers away from his pudgy little body, blew in his face (so he’d inhale) and released him with a gentle shove toward the instructor. She retrieved him immediately and he emerged with a sputter and a giant grin back at me. Soon, the hold/flip/float was mastered with great pride.
At age four I carefully taught him to ride a horse. When he was thrown in a field, my dad held me back from running to the rescue, instead insisting I help him back in the saddle to complete another lap. “This is a great life lesson,” Dad told me. “He’ll learn courage and not to fear failure if he gets right back up there.” I wanted to grab my little guy and flee, but I lifted him aboard that animal and told him to be brave. He grew to be cautiously bold… neither reckless nor fearful.
In high school my boy went away to work at a youth camp one summer. They were short-staffed so he was required to work long hours of labor with only one day off each week. He didn’t know anyone, was feeling isolated and exhausted and wanted to come home early. It broke my heart to hear him sound so sad and desperate on the phone, but my husband assured me it was best to make him stay. When he returned home, he thanked us and told us it was a wonderful and life-changing experience.
David taught his son, Solomon this lesson as well. “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.” 1 Chronicles 28: 20
Especially for mothers, the journey of parenting is an ongoing lesson of letting go. We innately want to protect and direct our kids away from pain, danger or discomfort. When they’re grown, these instincts don’t subside, but as we see our kids gain strength, wisdom and courage, it becomes increasingly clear that we must continually release them. It’s a little easier with the assurance that God never lets them go. Perhaps the Lord’s nudging you to relinquish a bit of the grip on your child. He may be saying, “Let go…you can do this…with me, he’ll be OK.”
And for those blessed enough to still have a mother, perhaps you need to extend an extra measure of grace when she holds a little too tightly. Especially on Mother’s Day, try to receive it as the expression of love it’s meant to be. “Her children rise up and bless her…” Proverbs 31:28
Any similar experiences of difficulty letting go? Comment below. Diane Markins
*A special Happy Mother’s Day wish to my daughter-in-law Chelsea, who will begin her journey in July.