From the very first moment those little eyes open and we hear them cry for the first time, we love our children. Even though there are moments that we get exasperated and frustrated, everything about us is conditioned to care for them and love them and protect them. It is part of our DNA.
Because we are mothers.
Unfortunately, we also have to live with the constant reminder that our children are pulling away from us. When they take that first step, they are becoming independent. Most of us get pretty excited when that happens. We like the little freedoms that are promised beyond our child-centered lives that maybe, one day, we will be able to go to the bathroom by ourselves.
What we do not like and what we will do anything and everything to prevent is for harm to come to those little doughy wonders. Mamas are mamas everywhere—we become grizzly bears when it comes to protecting our cubs. We have dreams for them—dreams of happiness and prosperity and safety. We pray for their futures constantly, and we trust that if we can just protect them long enough, guiding them in the way they should go, then all will be well.
So, what do we do when that doesn’t seem to be happening? What do we do when our children grow up and make bad decisions or enter hard times or suffer in ways we can’t control? What if our children become alcoholics, drug addicts or leave the faith we instilled into them?
That’s when God is calling us to let go. We have to loosen our iron maiden grips on their lives and allow them to fall, to fail, to suffer, and to hurt.
Like many other moms, I’ve had to endure this very thing with my boys. I am the mother of an alcoholic. I have endured sleepless nights, not knowing if my son was dead or alive. It is heart-wrenching to be unable to help our own flesh and blood.
I have discovered four truths that can help mothers keep their sanity during these very difficult times.
1. Realize it is going to be hard.
The human baby is the most helpless baby of all living things. God created human mothers to do every single thing to sustain that life once it’s born. We are hard-wired to keep them safe. It is enormously difficult for mothers to deny their created nature in order to allow something opposite to occur. That is especially true when we are asked to allow pain and hardship come to our children. My nature tells me to help. My God tells me to get out of the way.
I read a story about a man who came across a butterfly cocoon. The butterfly was just trying to break free of the cocoon, and the man felt compassion on the small creature. He took his thumb and just peeled away a small portion so that the butterfly quickly emerged. The man immediately noticed that the butterfly looked abnormal. Instead of having big, beautiful wings that look it to flight, the insect had small, misshapen wings, and it stumbled around on the ground, seemingly unable to fly.
You see, when that man followed his compassionate heart and helped the butterfly avoid its struggle, he stopped the necessary process the insect needed to grow. The butterfly was created so that when it struggled in its cocoon for freedom, vital, life-giving blood is forced through its undeveloped wings so that it can grow and become strong. Without that struggle, the butterfly will emerge crippled and unable to fly, a ready and vulnerable meal to any bird that flies by.
God tells us over and over that we need those struggles, just like the butterfly, so that we can become all that He wants us to be. Letting that happen is hard, but it is hard for a reason.
2. There is a training ground for learning to let go.
Our children move toward being independent very shortly after they are born. They are literally drawn toward independence. They do it gradually, one milestone at a time. These are milestones for us, too. God is so loving in that He knows exactly how hard it will be for us to watch them move into their own destinies, some of which will require pain. Instead of making us tear that terrible Band-Aid off all at once, He allows us to do it a step at a time, each step increasing in difficulty. It is harder to watch them go to Kindergarten than to take their first step. It’s harder to watch them get cut from the soccer team or get rejected by some kids at school. Then, they get their drivers licenses—talk about difficult! These milestones are our training ground, and we should be grateful for them.