It held on by a tiny sinew and stuck out of his top lip like one in a bad set of hillbilly teeth. The tiny baby tooth was threatening to come out and make way for something permanent, but the six-year-old couldn’t bring himself to let it go. He couldn’t close his mouth without fear of dislodging the dangling appendage, and no one could understand anything he said for days. Eating was difficult and somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Everyone in the family begged him to embrace the inevitable and just pull it out. He refused. His will to hold on to something temporary was crippling.
Do you remember the first time you lost a baby tooth, or the first time you pulled a wiggly tooth from an anxious child? The quick tug, small jolt of discomfort, and tiny bit of blood produced a wide-open space for something new—something that would outlast childhood. It’s a necessary and unstoppable sequence of events that welcome “big-kid teeth.”
Sometimes I behave like a snaggle-toothed kid. I hold on to seasons of parenting as if by my own will I can alter the progression of time. As I parent four boys, ages seven to twenty, I’ve had many opportunities to practice the art of “letting go.” Sometimes it comes easy for me, and other times I fight it. I’m often the one trying to combat inevitable change, even though I know the change will invite a new adventure.
Letting go of our children can be difficult, but necessary. This is a season of change for many moms. My second son graduates from high school this year. As much as I know he is ready to fly from the nest, I battle the temptation to annoyingly mother him as if he were five. Like me, do you find you are you holding on to a child you need to release?
Here are three simple thoughts to encourage you as you release your grip on the present season and prepare for what comes next.
Take baby steps. Practice letting go, one step at a time. Start when your children are very young by teaching them to do age-appropriate chores that lead them toward independence. Little by little, give them increased freedom to govern themselves while they live at home with you as a coach. By the time they move out, they’ll be more equipped to survive on their own.
Celebrate the next phase of life. Change is happening, moms. We can’t stop it. Teach your children to enjoy the present without dreading the future by celebrating what is to come. Is it time for graduation? Don’t let the grief of a season ending overshadow your joy at beginning the next stage of life. Is your child getting married? Be careful not to hold on too tight. Release them to flourish in their new chapter of adulthood.
Trust the work of God in their lives. If my words alone could change their hearts, my boys would be headed to seminary instead of a fraternity house. Our instruction and direction is vital to their development, but there comes a time when we must step back and simply trust God to germinate the seeds of truth we’ve planted. You can trust your child’s future to the God who created him.
Releasing our children to the next stage of their lives can be challenging and frightening, but it’s worth the effort. Just like those baby teeth that inevitably fall out when the time is right, our children will grow up and become adults—right on time.