Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Parenting and Letting Go

I find myself reflective as I prepare to farewell my 15 year old son. He leaves today for a two week adventure to Vietnam to visit his uncle and work in a disabled orphanage. I’m a lot more nervous than he is apparently. How do you say goodbye to your own flesh and blood and send them to the other side of the planet? Maybe this is practice for sending him off to college or to war or to something even larger and more frightening.

My mind wanders through sixteen years of intimate connection. No wonder it’s hard to let go.

I took my minor role in his birth very seriously. Not sure exactly what I could do to help the situation, I whispered calm thoughts about breathing until Meg reached out and pulled me close in a headlock. She squeezed tight and didn’t let go for 12 hours. I could neither breathe, nor speak. That seemed better for both of us. Two weeks later in the chiropractor’s office, I reflected on the experience. Expectant fathers, it is my best advice that you should never make any reference to pain or light headedness while in the delivery room. Suck it up, and keep quiet. Your role is that of a sponge or a cushion or punching bag as the case my be. Maybe I will play a similar role at the airport today.

I had the honor of cutting the cord. Now that was a heart stopping thing to do. It was hard to believe the nurse who said that it wouldn’t hurt either mother or child. I mean it was part of both of them. How could it not hurt? It made me a little squeamish. I asked if we could just leave them attached. It seemed safer, and would certainly make trips to Vietnam much less likely. From the moment that cord was cut, I began learning the delicate balance between holding on and letting go.

Words can’t accurately describe the elation of partnering the creation of new life. It gave me some small insight into some of the mysteries of life including a profound appreciation for the Source of Life, by any name. It also began preparing me for today among many other days as a giant stride towards independence for father and son.

Now I reflect on the single cell I contributed to the miracle of new life, a cell so small that it can’t be seen with the naked eye, and the nucleus in the center of the cell that contained the DNA even smaller. And yet when unraveled the DNA of this single cell, unwound and uncoiled, would stretch to over six feet long. Now as I look eye to six foot high eye with my son, I am looking eye to eye with the miracle of life. In my case, I’m looking at a six foot bundle of creative potential with the world at his feet. Or else I lower my gaze to my second, and I see a five foot bundle of gentle compassion who holds the world in his heart. Then I lower my gaze still further to my four foot miracle of sweetness with my heart wrapped around her finger.

If I took all the DNA from all the 50 trillion cells in my son’s body, and unraveled and uncoiled it, it would stretch to the moon and back multiple times. It’s no accident that this is also the amount that I love him. To the moon and back…. multiple times and well beyond Vietnam.

I am connected to my son at a cellular level and that puts everything in perspective. I can let go for two weeks knowing that neither distance nor time can change the bond we have. I am related at the most intimate level, and letting go will always be relative. We are connected no matter what.

In the words of Ecclesiastes, ‘A three-fold cord is not easily broken.” A single cord is easily broken. A double cord is strong. A threefold cord is hard to break. If you look closely at an image of DNA, it looks like twisted, looping cords. It’s a long intertwined cord that connects you to life, to your children, to your ancestors, at a cellular level. How incredible! I am connected to my son to the smallest detail and out to the largest perspective.

As I practice letting go of my son, I learn something profound about the nature of life. It’s a constant push and pull with attachment. It’s also true of my spirituality. Long ago I cut the cord that tied me to any religious beliefs that keep my dependent on an angry, judging God. I released myself from needing to conform to the expectations of any creed or church and opted instead for the liberated journey of authenticity. I craft my own spiritual path and cut the ties to any beliefs that weaken or suppress me. I am a spiritual being immersed in a human adventure and so is my son. I have nothing to prove and nothing to fear and nor does he.

As spirit fills my life from the inside out, I learn more and more every day about letting go. You know what I’m talking about. Your five year old son wants to use the restroom by himself for the first time. You stand at the door talking to him the whole time. Your thirteen year old daughter wants to go on her first date alone with a boy. She’s getting embarrassed about being seen in public with her parents. You are torn between her desire for independence and your understanding of sixteen year old boys. So you send her off with a cell phone GPS tracker and wait by the front door in a rocking chair. Your eighteen year old son wants to join the military. Your twenty year old daughter wants to get married. Your adult children want to move across the other side of the world, taking your grandchildren with them. Now you see why you need to practice this whole letting go business. You have to prepare yourself for life’s big surrenders.

It’s hard, but the alternative is much harder. The freedom of letting go is that you feel lighter, you move more easily, you have less baggage and you discover that most of what you let go comes back to you in some other form anyway if you are open. I will let go of my son today and he will come back in two weeks a different person. He continues his journey towards independence, and so do I. Now wish me luck as I head to the aiport.

Ps, Please stop by Soulseeds where I do most of my blogging and post many affirmations, parenting and inner peace resources.

1 comment:

Jen Z said...

Beautiful Ian.

Release that boy to God, He is the ultimate parent ;) He can fill in the gaps where all of us will fail, the best thing we can do for our children as they grow is to pray continually for them.