Raising Children: Letting Go

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.

6 thoughts on “Raising Children: Letting Go

  1. So hard to face … That giving up control for safety. On any scale. Last year I started letting my recently turned 9yo return carts in parking lots. Terrifying to me, healthy pride inducing for him. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I highlighted that same passage to put in my commonplace. I always joke—maybe half seriously—to my babies that they can’t grow up any more. Your words, and Tennyson’s, make me think that it may be time to start telling them how proud I am of them moving forward.

  3. I want to be one of those mothers that lets go in the way that justice and nature ask us to, but it is so hard. The way it is expressed here–just amazing. Very convicting!

  4. I think most mothers just want to protect our children from…everything right?…but smothering them – protecting them from every little thing – won’t result in their own growth. One of these days we must let go and hope that we have done our job and will see the fruit of our labor. Thank you for sharing!

  5. It is certainly a balancing act, because we still need to protect our children from some things. Each child and each age require a shift in that balance.

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