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Letting go is the hardest part of being a parent

Categories: Mommy Angst

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My heart sank this past month every time there was news of yet another distraught, unhappy young man who felt he had no other option than ending his own life to make the pain he was feeling stop. I still tear up as I write this, not only for the horrible pain endured by Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas and Seth Walsh, but by what their parents are undoubtedly feeling. While I cannot pretend to compare my letting-go experience to that of those parents, I can say from experience that as a parent — from the time our children are born — we have  to override our every instinct that tells us differently and bit by bit trust that they can make their way in the world. Even if that leads to disaster. And that’s what makes being a parent so difficult. Every little step along the way, from weaning to big boy underwear to first sleepovers to puberty to ski trips, feels like a step away from the warm, loving embrace we instinctively know how to give.

And that’s what we struggle with.

I am a poster mom for this sort of thing, since as of two years ago my kids live 3000 miles away from me and we connect heart to heart and through Skype and IM. That decision was a year in the making and of course my heart still aches for them when I hear about some of their daily trials, things I can’t be there to help with, soothe over, and make better. I can give my son healthy recipes so he can cook a dinner he likes and that feels good in his body, and I can remind them that they have a dry-erase board on the refrigerator to use to communicate among the family members so the milk won’t run out and so people get rides to where they need to go without it being a big deal. Like any parent, I can give tools, but my kids still need to do it on their own.

So how does this relate to the tragedy of gay bullying? In my imagination, those parents are now replaying their words in their heads, wondering whether they could have said anything differently, done anything differently and still have their sons with them. I know I would be doing that. I have considered my reaction if one of my sons told me he was gay. I know I would wholeheartedly support him but I also know that my heart would sink at the hard road ahead for him. Letting go of our kids in such a big way has got to be heartwrenching. I’m still torn apart by what those boys’ parents must be feeling.

What have your letting-go moments — big and small — been like?

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