I decided to download all of my pictures off of my Facebook page and place them in photo albums. Remember photo albums? You know, it’s not easy finding photo albums these days. It’s been a while since I have placed pictures between the sticky paper. By a while, I mean a good five years. As I sifted through the pictures, noticed that besides Christmas, Easter and Birthdays, the picture that was taken the most, was the first day of school.
I have marked this passage of time, more than any other. More than the loss of the first tooth, or the first ride without training wheels, or the first time on skis, the first day of school gets top billing.
The photo serves as a way of trying hold time in place. As if by taking the picture, there is a false promise that nothing will change. And yet we know, that another year means another set of challenges and possibilities, and that we as parents have little control over what will happen next.
There are all of the little things we try to control like school supplies, schedules, haircuts, physicals, new shoes, and a good night’s sleep. We might even try to control who are kid’s get for a teacher and where they sit in class, and how they do on a test.
But you know, all of these things are distractions to avoid that reality that another school year is another step in the parenting process of letting go.
Letting go is the cruel lesson of being a parent. I’ve known few parents who have done it gracefully, and none who have done it perfectly. These human beings come into the world fully reliant on us for their very survival and gradually, slowly, their survival is up to them, and we relinquish any control we ever thought we had.
What does it mean to let go?
- It does not mean that we ever stop loving our children.
- It does not mean we ever stop having hopes and expectations for them and of them.
- It does not mean we ever stop seeing a portion of ourselves in them.
- It does not mean we ever stop praying for them.
To let go means to separate, to differentiate yourself, and to recognize that our children’s lives are theirs to live. Their third grade spelling test, is not our third grade spelling test. Their junior high drama is not our junior high drama. Their home run is not our home run. Their marriage is not our marriage. Their lives are not our lives.
And yet. And yet, we worry. We grieve. We suggested, advise, lament, yell, scold, shame, argue, push, fret, and try with all of our power to control the beings that were formed in our womb to make sure they are going to be okay!
Will they be okay?
Yes and No.
They will bleed and rejoice.
They will hurt and be whole.
They will make mistakes and have great luck.
They will live.
Just as you will.
The final scene in the movie A River Runs Through it, speaks to this truth:
I remember the last sermon I ever heard my father give, not long before his own death:
“Each one of us here today will, at one time in our lives, look upon a loved one in need and ask the same question: We are willing Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true that we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give, or more often than not, that part we have to give… is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us… But we can still love them… We can love—completely—even without complete understanding…”
Now, nearly all those I loved and did not understand in my youth are dead, even Jessie. But I still reach out to them… When I am alone in the half-light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade away to a being with my soul and memories of the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River, and a four-count rhythm, and the hopes that a fish will rise.
Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the earth’s great flood and runs over the rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words. And some of the words are theirs. ‘I am haunted by waters