There have been just a few moments in my life that have left me shaken, vulnerable and dependent, both physically and emotionally.
Bringing home my first child after he was born headlines that short list.
Never have I been more scared and doubting of my abilities, my decisions and my actions. Will I feed him enough? How will I know when to let him soothe himself? Am I paying enough attention to him? Too much?
As parents, we somehow survive the newborn and infancy stages; we hold our breath and press our lips tight as our children learn to pull themselves up and walk ... and promptly fall. We make it through their first years, and though no developmental stage is particularly easy, we do begin breathing again.
And then we're hit with our children reaching young adulthood.
And here I go again. I find myself shaken, vulnerable, second-guessing. Am I giving too much freedom? Do I need to pay more attention? Am I giving all the guidance I can give right now?
My son turning 18 years old came out of nowhere, despite a two-year ramping up of preparation. I had buckled my seat belt when he turned 16, and began reading books, following blogs, researching websites, attending free hospital workshops. I repeatedly "borrowed" magazines from the pediatrician's office if the cover said anything about "Things You Need to Know When Your Children Become Adults."
I even attended several high school panels and workshops on the subject. The experts assured me that armed with the knowledge that they had gathered with their research, I would navigate these sometimes turbulent seas with patience, confidence and compassion.
There was a fine art to letting go, they said. They suggested that I set my child free, assured in the knowledge that the values and ethics and whatever else we had taught him while he lived at home would serve him well in the real world.
But just like that night 18 years ago, when I first brought home a bundle of joy who I loved beyond words and knew that he was mine and would be dependent on me for his care, I've now stepped into a parallel universe, where my bundle of joy who I love beyond words will no longer be living with me, is no longer mine and won't depend on my care.
All of the books, magazines and radio call-in shows can give their helpful advice about raising your child into a young adult. It doesn't make a difference. Because I've never felt more shaken, vulnerable and dependent.
There is no fine art to letting go.