November brings with it cooler weather, leaves of gold and the feeling of thanks in the air. It’s the perfect time to begin a practice of gratitude. You Know Neen is hosting the 2nd Annual 30 Days of Gratitude blog series, a place where the experience of gratitude will be explored and shared. I, along with several other contributors will be sharing our thoughts on all things gratitude.
My sweet 17 year old is a high school senior. Nine months from now (the same amount of time I spent carrying her) she will be starting a new life. A new life without me to come home to every day, without me by her side, without her Dad’s strong arms to fall into when she needs a hug and a laugh, without her little brother to laugh with or pick on when she feels like it. It’s time to begin letting her go.
It’s not easy, this letting go. It is one of the hardest things I have to do as a mom. It is simultaneously terrifying and liberating. Letting go is heartbreaking and heart-opening. We are leaving the old and creating something new and uncertain. More than anything though, letting go of my baby girl is necessary and I am finding gratitude that I get to do it at all.
To begin this new life, she needs life skills and experience and most importantly, self confidence. She has all of these for the most part. We’ve given her that, I think. But to continue the process, I need to let her go this year, little by little, so she can continue to sharpen these skills and build on them.
She put in some new boundaries already. During the college application process, our young adult suggested (demanded) we only talk about college on Sundays, as Hubs and I seemed to separately bring it up in conversation nearly every day. We had no idea. At first, I didn’t do such a good job with this piece of letting go. I was on auto-pilot asking about deadlines, emails and transcripts. And any time it wasn’t Sunday, she would calmly answer “I’ll let you know on Sunday.”
And it helped. It took pressure off her and it helped me to learn to stay quiet. Something I am learning it is important to do as the parent of a young adult. I realize too, by staying quiet more, she not only shares more, but she rolls her eyes less, pays more attention when I do give her my opinion and most importantly, she asks for it. More.
Maybe these changes are due to her maturation, maybe it is the letting go, maybe its because she is realizing, if only in her subconscious – ‘holy shit – i’m outta here soon, and while it’s AWESOME, it’s scary man.’
Part of letting go is letting her in. We are talking to her more and more like the adult she is becoming. We are sharing with her our financial successes and mistakes. She helped us fill out the FAFSA and knows exactly how much money we have, what we need and that she may need to take out some loans.
I’m letting her in little by little as I’m sharing my own history, my own secrets and parts of my life only a select few know about. Sometimes she wants to know, sometimes she doesn’t.
We trust our baby girl. She makes most of her own decisions without our input – some smart, some not so smart. She needs to continue to make more decisions too – like where she will go to school once the acceptance letters start coming in, where she plans to work this summer. If she will take a trip with all her friends this summer since she has to fund it herself.
While we are still living in the same household and she is still a teenager, we do have boundaries and expectations for her. We say no to outings that aren’t necessary on the weekends. She has responsibilities around the house and instead of pulling back here, we are asking for more. She’s on her own with her laundry this year for the most part. She needs to learn not just how to do it, but what she has to do when she forgets to do it.
She needs a job for this summer. That’s a steadfast boundary in Neenville. And we are on her to get moving on that come January. Letting go doesn’t mean letting go of everything. It’s a slow and continual process. There are lots of snags along the way on both sides – sometimes I want to let go too much and she hangs on.
More often I’m the one doing the hanging on. But I’m working on it every day. Some days it seems that’s all I do. I keep letting go and I swear to all that’s holy us Moms need a freakin award, a banner, a vacation on the beach for how much we let go during this senior year of High School.
I am so grateful for every moment we have during the next nine months. There are a few things I will never let go: I will never let go of our morning hug routine. I won’t let go of sitting on the couch and just being with her, whenever she wants, whenever she asks. I will not yet let go of making sure she eats well and making her lunch before school because as long as she lives here I want to continue to nourish her, body and soul.
I had nine months to bring her into our world and have nine more months to learn to let her go. I am grateful I have the blessing to do so and that she is the one teaching me how to do it.