My middle son has been reminding me of his upcoming birthday. He wants to have lasagna for dinner. He wants a book for his Kindle. He has a categorized list. And, he tells me, this will be his only doubled-digit birthday for eleven more years. He will turn the big one-one (11) in a few weeks. The next birthday with a doubled-digit will be his 22nd.
I watch them, all of them, but especially my older boys (they turn 11 and 13 this year). I love the young men they are becoming. I hope I’ve been, and will continue to be, as gentle at letting go as my parents were. I know that one by one my children will grow up, and walk out of my door, to find their own way in the world. Bravely I’ll hug them, invite them to drop by for dinner any time, remind them to call, and smile with pride as my insides melt into tears and prayers. But to hold them back? Unthinkable.
The problem, and pain, of wise letting go has been around as long as children have. I’ve happily discovered that Tennyson has even put it to verse in his Idylls of the King(which I am reading with the book discussion group on the Ambleside Online forum).
Gareth, brother of Gawain, laments being imprisoned by his mother, and dreams of great deeds. He goes to tell his mother his plight in the form of a story:
But ever where he reach’d a hand to climb,
One, that had loved him from his childhood, caught
And stay’d him, “Climb not lest thou break thy neck,
I charge thee by my love,” and so the boy,
Sweet mother, neither clomb, nor brake his neck,
But brake his very heart in pining for it,
And passed away.
Poetry is the language of the soul.