Letting go is the hardest thing any parent will ever have to do. I’m still learning how to let go and my oldest is 32, my middle son is 21, and my youngest is 17. According to the wise elders around me, “You never stop worrying. You are never really able to let go.”
Worrying and letting go are two sides of the same coin—a coin you start flipping the minute you realize you’ve missed your period, or see that pink line, or hear those fateful words, “You’re pregnant.” In an instant you are changed, no longer the you from the second before. Your heart and all your emotions now belong to your child, this new being living and growing inside of you.
Their physical health.
Their emotional health.
Their comfort and happiness.
All in your hands.
Worrying about them. Letting go of you.
Your mini-you will eventually emerge into a world full of viruses, stereotypes, and differing beliefs. You will attempt to protect your child and limit their exposure to all of the “bad” things, because what parent doesn’t want to give their child all of the “good” things—the things that keep them safe and make them happy?
Still, it won’t be long before your little one will start wanting to do things their way. You’ll find yourself telling them no— so many noes to protect them and the world around them.
No. Rub the puppy like this. No, don’t touch that. It’s hot. No, you have to hold mommy or daddy’s hand in the parking lot.
They’ll do okay for a while with your noes, because they want to make Mommy and Daddy happy, and Mommy and Daddy do know best.
Then the day will come when they go off to school. Those viruses and stereotypes and differing beliefs will sit beside them in class, but your baby will be okay. They will, because they will build up immunities to those viruses, and they will form their own beliefs and preferences and thoughts around those stereotypes. Your little person will start to become an individual right before your own eyes. (Even though they’ve really been working on becoming an individual for the last five years.)
They’ll come home from school and tell you their favorite color, and what their friend has in their lunch box, because they want one of those Lunchables, too. They’ll start having conversations about people and communities, and emotions and relationships. And one day, they will ask to wear the boots.
Their favorite yellow rain boots that make them happy.
When it hasn’t rained in sixteen days.
You’ll hold up the cute sneakers and coax them by telling them these shoes help them run fast, but they don’t believe that anymore. You’ll suggest the cowboy boots, because they go well with their jeans. They’ll shake their head, intent on the boots. So, maybe you’ll even throw in a cowboy hat. Anything but the damn rain boots. It’s not raining.
Oh, the pain of letting go, of letting them make their own decisions and suffer the consequences. Listen to me, my little one. Let me protect you.
Is sweet surrender really sweet at all?
If you’re not a parent, you’re not off the hook, because love is love is love, and there is always somebody in your life that you are trying to protect. True love—healthy love—requires a hefty dose of letting go.
It’s so hard to honor someone’s decision/inaction/action/choice, when you know the likely consequence: snickers, stares, harsh words, an “F” on that paper they waited until the last minute to write, a relationship’s demise, sometimes (in this day and time) even the possibility of physical violence for an unpopular belief.
These consequences might seem a little far-fetched for wearing a pair of yellow rain boots during a sixteen-day drought, but in the grand scheme of life judgement, ridicule, and pain can accompany our authentic choices. And judgement, ridicule, and pain is exactly why we try to persuade our loved ones not to wear the rain boots.
Love, as beautiful as it is, makes us want to protect, nurture, comfort—to spare those pieces of our heart from the harsh realities that come from being authentic, individualistic, unmasked, different—fully embodied and true.
Because being fully embodied and true raises fear within us. Maybe some group (popular kids, cool kids, mean kids, a bully) did something terrible to us when we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and take off our own masks and show the world who we really are at our core.
You can’t wear the boots. It’s not raining.
At some point our little ones, loved ones, family, and friends need to become responsible for themselves. And no matter how much we want to protect them from the popular kids, the cool kids, the mean kids, the bully, sometimes that is not something we can do while allowing them to be true to who they really are.
We can support them and be there for them, and most certainly speak out against the bullies.
We can talk. We can offer our thoughts around right and wrong and where a certain decision/choice/action/inaction might lead.
But we need to let them wear the damn boots.
We even need to go as far as to encourage the people we love to wear the damn boots when it means they are taking off the mask and speaking their inner truth; or when they are being themselves unapologetically: being seen; being heard; using their voices for good (i.e. love), speaking up when something is wrong.
Fear and hate are the last things I want for the ones I love. Safety, yes. But fear of being their truest self because someone else is going to judge them or make some degrading remark? That’s turning the coin worry side up and paying rent to someone else’s happiness (or worse, someone else’s fear and hate).
Let them wear the damn rain boots during a drought. Hell, wear your rain boots too. You never know, you might just encourage someone else to be authentic, individualistic, unmasked, different—fully embodied and true.
Surrender really is a sweet thing. Hard, but sweet.
What—or who—are you needing to surrender these days? Has some fear or belief stolen your happiness and kept you from being your most authentic self?