Letting Go, Slowly

When my oldest son was a baby, we had a naming ceremony for him. Each person who came to the ceremony was asked to bring a token-sized gift and a blessing that it represented. It was very fairy-tale, but without any angry fairies, and he was blessed indeed. I remember most vividly a tiny Han Solo for adventure, a walnut for the ability to see through to the meat of the matter, and a pen for the love of writing. His father and I gave him a paper mâché carrot and a butterfly pin; they represented a promise for roots and wings.

It seems appropriate now, that the carrot is so much bigger than the butterfly.

This is the commitment that I made when I became a mother: that I would provide this container of family and home for my child to grow in so that he would eventually be able to fly off on his own.

At the time it was so abstract, so far in the future, so easy to say. He was tiny, and it was all about breastfeeding, and carrying him, and language, and first steps. Surely growing up and leaving would take forever? It wasn’t for now. It was for later.

Here is what I’ve learned: Later is now. The entire thing, moving from breastfeeding, to feeding, to teaching him to cook, to teaching him to meal plan, to teaching him to grocery shop has been one long process of letting go, of helping him grow these wings so that he can eventually leave me, strong, healthy, and capable.

Sometime in the last few months, I realized that he has already lived with us more than half the time he is likely to. We still read bedtime stories, and we still snuggle for at least a few minutes at a time, once in a while, but we’ve definitely moved towards the wings end of the spectrum. It makes me so happy that we put the initial effort into the roots side of things, because I can’t imagine letting go without having first held this tightly. It makes this release easier: all that time worrying about breastfeeding and babywearing and co-sleeping and gentle parenting and minding my language (even if I never quite got it right). Getting to see this lovely person he is constantly becoming reminds me of why it mattered in the first place. It makes it feel like we’ve both really been here.

Photo credit: Author

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Seonaid Lee is a mother of three kids from 3 to 11 years of age, who lives an increasingly rural life in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She writes about raising children, chickens, bees, and herself at The Practical Dilettante. She still calls her Mom for advice.

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