On Letting Go

Every Sunday afternoon, Ruthie smells of another woman’s perfume. We pick her up from the church nursery, and for the rest of the day, every time I pick her up or kiss her face, I’m hit by that vaguely unfamiliar smell.

It belongs to a woman named Carrie, who snuggles, feeds, and rocks Ruthie in the church nursery every week. She’s there consistently, and so we’re growing to recognize the smell, but it still throws me off every week. It’s a weird dynamic, this trusting of other people—basically strangers—to care for our children, and to know that wherever they go, they will carry the scent of those people with them.

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Ian also started full-time Pre-K this fall. He’s now in school Monday-Thursday, all day long; it’s a big leap from the 4 hours per week he spent at school last year. He’s exhausted at the end of every day, but he loves school. He practically pushes us out the front door every morning, and when we were in Florida for a wedding a few months ago, he cried because he couldn’t go to school. Still, this transition has been hard for me.

I’ve never been one to hate being away from my kids, the way I know some mothers do. Even when Ian was first born, I relished alone time. I often want and even need a break, and I come back a better mom after some distance. So, I’ve been surprised by my own struggle with this transition. The best way I’ve come to explain it is that this new loss of intimacy is jarring.

For the past four years, Ian and I have been in almost constant communication. When he was a newborn, I narrated our days to him. Now, he hardly ever stops talking to me. We are in a strong Look! Watch this! phase. He constantly tells me about every thing he does and asks a slew of questions. He filters all of his life through me—my questions, my thoughts, my opinions, my answers and responses to his curiosity. “Mom! Mom! Mom!” I hear it all day long.

Except, now I don’t. He spends four days every week in the company of other kids and adults. I don’t know about the conversations he has, and I don’t know what questions he asks. Someone else is now helping to form his worldview, and frankly, that’s hard to stomach.

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I wonder if this is how God felt when Adam and Eve left Eden: a sudden lack of intimacy and loss of influence, a passing off of his children into the care of the world. I worry about the influences my children will encounter; it shakes me to realize that God knew what Adam and Eve would find outside the garden. There is so much good and beauty out here in the world, but also so much darkness.

Research shows that adult influences besides parents play a significant role in the development of our faith. It’s a bit jarring to realize how much other people will influence my children, but it motivates Evan and I to seek out the best possible people to surround our kids. We want our children surrounded by a community who will love them, point them to Jesus, and encourage the best of who they are. I want those influences, like perfume on the tops of their sweet little heads, to go with them into the world and to come home with them, too.

It’s so hard to let my babies go, to send them into the world, knowing they will one day be hurt and broken by it. Andrew Peterson sings, “Maybe it’s a better thing, a better thing, to be more than merely innocent, but to be broken and redeemed by love.” God knew that, somehow, when Adam and Eve left the garden. He knew the tale of their redemption would be better than their images of perfection. He knew that when we let our children go, they encounter other people, and therefore they will one day more fully reflect the imago dei, the image of God.

As I learn to let go of my kiddos, this is the hope I cling to.

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