For years, I sang this little song to pre-schoolers. First- to classrooms of children I taught. Eventually-to my own preschoolers.
“Open, shut them. Open, shut them. Give a little clap.
Open, shut them. Open, shut them. Lay them in your lap.”
It always worked to get their attention and to get them to cooperate- sitting quietly at tables hands in laps and ready for the next activity.
Today, the words have a different meaning. It’s not preschool hands I’m trying to control.
Today is an “Open, Shut them. Lay them in my lap.” Kind of day.
Not because I can’t sit still. (I can’t. I don’t even bother.) It’s because parenting has become a high-stakes strategic game of knowing when to hold on, and when to let go.“Open, shut them. Open? Shut them? Give a little clap? Open, shut them. Open? Shut them? Lay them in my lap?”
Today is a “letting go” day. My older two sons are taking off to go with a friend, to a gaming conference in Seattle. Hello, Seattle is across the country from Detroit! They’re going on a plane. Unsupervised.
The very same college kids who stay up all night playing video games, drink Monsters like they used to drink apple juice and sleep till noon or later-when they aren’t in class or, working. Those giant man-boys. Through TSA. On public transport. To a city they’ve never been to. OY.
Let’s just say I;m doing my best to keep my hands open- but it’s hard to lay them in my lap. It’s really hard to give a little clap. But, I want to. I want to cheer them on. I know they can do this. I know this is a good experience for them to have. I’m pretty sure they will have a great time. They are good kids. I don’t even anticipate a call from jail or a hospital. (Oh, please lord- keep them safe and out of jail…)
So my hands are: Open.
But- I really want to shut them.
Parenting is a lot of letting go and holding on. From birth- to burping-babysitters, preschool, to bike riding, elementary school to middle school. High school to driving and graduation. College.
It’s all holding on and letting go.
I remember older Mom’s telling me on “Open, shut them.” kind of days- that it gets easier. They lied.
It doesn’t get easier- it gets: differenter. I trust them more- but the risks they take are bigger.
- Career choices.
- Life choices.
- Safety choices.
- Oy let’s not mention: drug, alcohol and sex choices.
- For pete’s sake: flight and trip choices had me ready for a xanax.
(My mom reminded me last night that she understands. Apparently- her daughter is always flying off somewhere unsupervised- and actually- supervising others. I know. It’s crazy. Yes, I’m her only daughter.)
So how do you cope when it’s one of those days? When it’s right to open your hands and let them go- but you desperately want to hold them back?
Well- I’m going to be doing pretty much the same thing I did the first day of kindergarten.
- I’ll manically clean.
- I’ll knit like a fiend.
- I’ll wait till they come home and be thrilled when they safely do. I will do my best not to embarrass them. (Too much.)
- I’ll pray and I’ll trust.
Not just my kids- but the one who’s always got them in His hands- and the one who loves them best.
(No- not the internet. The other one- Jesus.)
“Dear Lord- Help me as I let go once again. Like first bike rides and first days of school and driving- this is just another step in their becoming adults. Be with my kids- as you always are. Help me to trust you- as I let them go. Parenting is hard lord-it gets different- and it’s amazingly good- but it’s also: hard. Give me wisdom to know when to hold on and when to let go. Help me to give a little clap (Quietly. In my mind. So I don’t embarrass them to death.) as they do yet one more thing on their own. Help each reader, to do the same. In Jesus name- Amen. PS: Please lord- help them continue to make smart choices and have fun and avoid jail or hospitals… EVEN THERE. In Seattle. Justsayin.”
“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.” John 3:35