It is the afternoon of life. The sun has left its highest point and is moving inexorably toward the west, starting its inevitable descent downward and leaving a dimmed, soft, and autumnal light as the star slips toward its dark enclave behind the farthest horizon line. Meanwhile, our namesakes have begun their journey to independence and full selfhood — their stars still bright in the east, and rising. These children never really needed us — not really — and it’s as though they now realize it. They have started to water their own trees, requiring progressively less of the nurturing sustenance of which we were once the sole providers.
We meanwhile grudgingly consent to letting them go, with a sadness tempered only by pride and a bone weariness at having done all we could do. It is their time now. They must take the reins of the hansom that will convey them through the rest of their lives. We will surely continue to ride somewhere behind them, at a tolerable distance, but always ready to gallop back to offer aid when life’s journey becomes a weight too heavy to shoulder alone. For the balance of the voyage, though, they will remain hereafter alone. Or, at least, independent of us.
As the star marches on, we begin to look tentatively toward a more peaceful time, a time no longer beholden to those rituals and exigencies of being The Responsible Ones. We have caught sight of the first glimmering images of that next existence, that passage into a time of rest, reflection, and memory. Where did it all go, the time? How did we end up here, at this point where suddenly it is requisite to let them go, to set them free? What will become of us, then? Is there meaning in a life beset only by the dwindling responsibility for oneself?
We are not really sure because we haven’t had the luxury of that kind of life for close to two decades. In no way are we the same people now, for we have made monumental emotional investments in these young ones. We have profound feelings — and worries — for their future. We have regrets. We have the deep contour lines of The Parent engraved on our faces, framing our eyes like fissures that point to a fracture in the land. They say Beware! This way lay uncertain ground.
Will they be contented in their newly-independent existence, our former charges? Will they find that we prepared them adequately to be thrown to the uncaring world? Will they wish we had done better for them, fitted them with stronger armor? Will we wish the same, forever unsure that we did our best? We already do feel that way, truth be told, and have suffered that gnawing doubt since the earliest days.
We know that we fell short often, even from those initial sleepless and tear-filled nights. We never had full belief in our abilities to give those small beings everything they needed from us. We did our best, certainly, but we failed often and spectacularly at times. And we always wanted nothing more — nothing — than to be perfect for them. If we could have secured that impeccability through some Faustian pact, we’d have willingly handed over our gift-wrapped souls.
Still, our best will have to sustain them. That is all we had to give them, after all. We hope it was enough, and that they will always remember that. We also hope they will never give up on us, or abandon us. Don’t they know that we are the ones who need them now? Will they ever understand that before they find themselves in the initial waning days of their own lives, with their own children nearing the end of their adolescence? Likely not. Probably not, but that is ok. We will continue to nurture them until we have nothing left to give, and until they chafe under our well-meaning guidance. That is what we do. It is our prime directive and we carry it out as faithfully as the salmon swimming upstream to spawn and die.
In the meantime, we move into this new phase of the sun, determined to make the most of it, reflecting on what we did right, what we got so wrong, and what we would do differently, if we only had it all to do over again. There are so many things. We would have loved harder, and purer, and been slower to anger, and quicker to comfort. We would have made sure they knew every day how much our hearts beat for them. We would have stayed up those extra few minutes with them, and spent those forever-lost moments playing outside just a little bit longer. Alas, those moments are now passed like fall leaves taken by the wind. We are consigned to the winter now, and the leaves are forever just beyond our grasp.
So, we will avail ourselves of the only remaining chance to recapture that nurturing love. We will spoil their own charges in an inadequate yet still self-placating attempt to correct our own mistakes. We will indulge those new lives, giving them the pure and unfiltered loving joy we always wanted to give our own, if only the heavy burden of raising had not all-too-often outweighed the blessing of loving. That former obstacle now makes way for a fuller embrace of the latter gift. The love is all we need shower forth now. And so we will, letting our own waning warmth shine down for as long as we are able before we fade behind that horizon line forever.
Read more from Sandboxx News:
- 10 signs that you’re a military parent
- Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
- No Better Friend: The kindness in Kabul is worth remembering
- 5 ways to help kids understand a deployment
- To the military parent: It’s time to let go
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Drema Copeland says
Yes this is what we do… raise them only to let go & let them have their life. But then these people have their own crew and we’re experiencing it all over again. And I wouldn’t have any other way. Thank you
2 out of 3 of my children are now adults. It is so hard to let go. Excellent article Fru.