We should have had a ceremony. One where we pulled out the scissors and my rarely-worn apron and symbolically cut the apron strings. Maybe that would have helped me learn to let go. My two oldest daughters moved out a couple of years ago. One in the fall to attend college at Utah State and the other only four months later to attend LDS Business College. All of the sudden, our family of seven was just a family of five, with room to spare at the dinner table. I was happy for them, but sad for me. I knew that once I let them go, things would never be the same…. But they went away anyway, and started living on their own, making their own decisions, and finding their own way.
When these girls were little, Steve used to tell them they couldn’t even date until they were 30. I used to fantasize about locking them in a pretty little love bubble so I could keep them safe and happy forever. Kind of like a Neverland type of thing, where they’d never grow up, the world couldn’t hurt them, and they’d never stop needing me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the next stage of my life with my sweetheart and I sharing an empty nest and then little grandbabies to cuddle, too. But being their mommy is the one thing I’ve wanted (it seems like) my whole life. Taking care of my babies, kissing their owies, guiding them through hard things, and helping them…grow up. I want to protect them, keep them safe, make sure they’re always happy. Now that they’re grown up, it’s hard for me to let them make their own decisions, manage their own lives, and quietly go about their business without me. Sometimes it’s hard to see them doing things that could change that perfect future I’ve planned out for them. Or be happy about ideas and plans that could take them away from me. But because it’s the natural order of things (and when I’m painfully honest with myself, I know I’d rather not have them depend on me the rest of their lives), I’ve had to learn to let go… a little at a time, and sometimes, I even think I might be able to completely. …Someday.
Even my baby thinks it’s OK for him to grow up. Last summer, my then 10 year-old son came in from playing with his best friend and announced that the next day they were going to do a lemonade stand in our front yard. At a time when I wasn’t going to be home to hover and make sure everything went fine. I just about put a kibosh on the whole plan until I thought about it and realized that we’ve taught him well. He knows the rules about strangers and what is and isn’t allowed. He’s also got a pretty good head on his shoulders. And his big brothers were going to be just inside the house if he needed anything. But, still, it was hard to let him do this without me. But, four dozen cookies, two gallons of lemonade, four repeat customers, and five hours later, they had earned $72 together. Wow… and they did fine. And were safe. Without me.
My daughters are choosing their forever sweethearts, deciding the course of their learning and careers, and following their dreams. They’re learning what they believe in, who they can count on, and what they want out of life. Finding their path to happiness. Isn’t this what I taught them to do? What I want them to do? It really truly is. And, as I watch, it makes my heart happy to see that they’re doing pretty well figuring it all out.
My teenage boys are growing daily, one much taller than me, and the other seeing me at eye-level now. Sometimes I wish I could just freeze time and make all this growing up stop. But then I have a fun adult-type conversation with these talented, sensitive and bright young men and I’m in awe of them. The way their brains work. Their talents and thoughtfulness. They’re going to grow up, and be amazing men, husbands, and fathers.
These kids of mine – all five of them – are going to grow up, into loving, kind, and respectful adults, great contributors to an ever-changing world. Come to think of it, I can’t wait to see that happen. It will be like Mommy Pay-day, a hundred times over. I’m excited to see them chase their dreams and become anything they want to be. I’m excited to see how they raise their families, what family traditions and happy childhood memories most grounded them that they choose to continue. I’m excited to see how they influence other people’s lives and make a difference for good in this sometimes cold and lonely world of ours. I’m excited to see them grow. Yes. I really am.
Let’s go find a pair of scissors. It’s definitely time to cut those strings.