On the eve of the first day of school, I had to sit down and unentangle the knot of emotions. My youngest starts first grade tomorrow – “real school”. This will be so different from kindergarten – all day in school, lunch at school, expectations of parents and teachers, new friendships and new heartbreaks. Things I had put off to exist “somewhere in the future” a few short months ago. Suddenly that future is here. And I’m excited for her, yet so sad to see her grow up so fast. When she goes to bed tonight with stars in her eyes, I will gaze at her sleeping face and pray for strength once again. To let go once more..
The minute we decide on becoming parents, we’ve (consciously or otherwise) committed to a lifetime of letting go, in addition to continuous sacrifice and unconditional love. For many women, it begins with pregnancy – for with this new decision, we’ve also accepted that our bodies will never be the same again. With that one decision, we’ve let go (usually joyously) of our bodies and everything that is to come during pregnancy, childbirth and thereafter. With childbirth comes the next letting go – of knowing that the child is no longer a physical part of us, and that from this point on, it will be one after another event of letting go. Of sleepless nights, every milestone of babyhood that we wish we could sear into our brains, that first smile, the first word, the first curl, the first tooth, the first step, and even that first time she slept through the night.. With each change, we learn to let go, as one phase passes into the next. The hardest letting go happens when working mothers return to work, leaving the helpless infant in the care of others. For mothers like me, this is probably one of the most difficult of all parenting steps. For months, I was broken-hearted every morning leaving my precious babies. Eventually, I did let go of the guilt, the sadness, and the act of questioning my life’s path.
Pre-school is the next big act of letting go. When we realize that not everything that our little angels know was taught by us, it is a major shift in parenting consciousness! No matter how prepared we think we are, most of us feel a certain pang in the pit of our stomachs leaving them in school that first day (or if one is like me, sit on the school steps and cry one’s heart out!). We then somehow let go easily enough through first performances, new skills, new words and abilities. And thereafter, for these incredible little ones, life is about building on those abilities while simultaneously exploring new ones. And increasingly testing their wings with the eventual goal of flying away. Through it all, we are constantly letting go..
When we think about it, parenting is a lesson in living our lives. For the act of living is the act of letting go. As we pass through life, the longer we hang onto particular identities and roles, the harder it is to accept and love ourselves. Be it youth, beauty, health, or specific roles – parent, spouse, professional, of a particular religious sect, nation or skin color, the harder it is to see our true self in the image of God when we cannot let go of these attributes. For we are not any of these – in fact, our cells have regenerated so many times since birth that we are not bodies we thought we were just a few months ago. Our minds which are a constant train of thought and fickle are not “us” either! It is when we let go of our identification with our bodies, minds, thinking and the concept of “me” that true peace can be let in.
In parenting too, it is by gracefully letting go that our children can grow both roots and wings. For our children don’t belong to us – they are precious gifts given to us to nurture and love so they can reach their full potential and fulfill their purpose on this planet.
Having said this, I will arm myself with a camera and a box of tissues tomorrow as I accompany my little girl to first grade.