by Danetta Kellar
He chose an eighties’ playlist.
I couldn’t have been happier as we barreled up the interstate, belting out lyrics with Madonna and Journey at the top of our lungs. I even caught him singing falsetto with Men at Work. He looked at me, incredulous. “You know all the words to these songs, Mom!”
He had never seen this side of me, I’m sorry to say. I had been too tight, too controlled, to shut-up in parenting perfectionism to just let it go and have fun, unabridged. And now we were speeding toward his future, childhood behind us.
“Babe, you are playing all the songs of my youth! This is the music I was a wallflower to at my seventh-grade dance. The music I listened to in my first car driving down the highway with the windows down, feeling truly free. These are the words that helped me through my first break up.”
We continued singing, and I noticed him glancing at me every once in awhile with a new look in his eye.
The trunk of the car was loaded with his footlocker, his soccer bag, and skateboard. And lots of junk food. We were on our way to the first stage of Goodbye, his two weeks of summer orientation for the competitive Math and Science school he’d be attending for the final two years of high school.
I woke up early that morning to hem his dress pants, then promptly forgot them hanging on the door. For weeks I had carefully reviewed the list of things to bring, including money for laundry, and then left it in a neat envelope, on the bar, at home. I was not myself.
“Are you nervous?” he looked at me sideways as I searched on my GPS for the nearest bank.
“Well, I didn’t think I was, but I guess apparently I really am.”
“Yeah. You are. Don’t be nervous, Mom. I’m going to be fine.”
Later that afternoon we said our goodbyes. I walked across the campus in the evening sunlight, but in my mind I was in the QE2 Hospital, sixteen years earlier, my newborn in a small bed by my own. I held his pudgy little hand, his fingers in a vice grip around my index finger.
The nurse came into the shadowy room. “Let us take your wee one out to the station for a bit, love. You need rest.” She rolled his bed out through the backlit door. Panic suddenly filled me, the entirely brand-new sensation of mother-bear protectiveness surging through me. You cannot take my baby from me! Bring him back! My unreasonable thoughts faded as I slipped into exhausted sleep, my baby safe and sound with the nurses just outside my room.
The crazy road-trip of letting our babies go starts even before they are born.
We release them to God, we release them to God, and we release them again. I sat in my car and cried a bit, then let my boy go again, my anxious thoughts slipping into the rest God offers to mothers over and over. I can trust Him to keep my child in his care as He always has.
On this never-ending journey of letting children go, make sure your playlist is one you know and can sing loud and off key. Take lots of snacks and have a cheeseburger on the way if that’s what he wants. Talk a little and listen a lot. And at the stops along the way, hug hard and let yourself cry.