New Castle News

Lisa Madras

June 4, 2012

Lisa Madras: My kids are growing up — and that’s a ray of sunshine in midst of storm

NEW CASTLE — Can you love enough to let go?

Last weekend I went camping for the long holiday weekend. Camping, as you know, is a recent new love for me. And although much anticipated and long-planned, I sort of went into this one with a "been there, done that" mentality. (I really needed to be home getting things ready for my daughter's birthday party the following weekend.) But in very untypical "me" fashion, I chose adventure over chores, and just figured I'd make up the work afterward.

And, holey schmoley, what an adventure it turned out to be! I experienced having nothing but a canvas tent protecting me from storms, and rode blind across the campground in a golf cart during a thunderstorm at night.

But my greatest experience of the weekend was watching my 12-year-old son grow his wings. Now, since people seem to have an alarming tendency to die on me, and my two children are all the family I have left, I can't really say that keeping the apron strings nice and tight wasn't a comfort to me. But living in a secluded little tribe of three people and viewing most of the outside world as a potential threat is not really a healthy environment for a child to grow up in. As scared as I was, I wanted to see him fly.  

And given that one little opportunity, he didn't just fly — he blasted into a completely new world like a launching rocket.

The only time I saw that child the entire weekend was when he and his new buddies stopped by the camp to grab some food or change into their swimsuits. I thought I'd miss him, and I did. I thought I would constantly fear for his safety, and I did. And I thought my heart would ache just a little bit, and it did. It ached a lot, actually.  

But through the heartache and the worry, I felt an unexpected, yet delightful response: I was proud of him for trekking into a completely unfamiliar world with abandon and self-confidence. This child, who has been dealt virtually every unfair card that the universe has up its sleeve, and had taken refuge in the dark confines of online video gaming, had burst into the sunshine at the hands of two scruffy, sunburned angels on bicycles.

Even more shocking was how proud I felt of myself. Not just about the realization that I, through my own darkness, had raised this child just right enough to confidently break away from me when the occasion arose, and not just for having the strength to let him go, but for the realization that his emancipation made me happier than it did sad. Perhaps I managed to raise myself just right enough, too.

I was even OK later, when my daughter was whisked away in a maelstrom of sidewalk chalk and pickle-flavored lip gloss by the sister of my son's new friends.

This was quite a startling transformation from the new mother who cried herself to sleep at night thinking about the day her baby would grow up and leave for college.

OK, so a weekend camping excursion isn't the same as leaving the nest, but it was a pretty neat trial run. Imagine my surprise to find that I could tentatively, yet resolutely, albeit only temporarily, let go of the two things I love most in this world. Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.

Someday, I'm going to have to let go for real, but at least now I know that even in my weakest moments, I have the capacity to grow a little bit stronger; and like the trees that sheltered my tent from the worst of the wind and rain, I know that in some distant autumn, when it's time to really let go, my children and I will all have the roots it takes to weather the storm.


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Lisa Madras
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