My darling niece, Nutmeg, turned sixteen a few weeks ago (and may be mortified that I am writing this blog after she reads it although I did use an alias, albeit an easily decoded one [@Nutmeg: there are fun words in that sentence just for you ;)]). She was beyond thrilled to be getting her driver's license and hitting the road on her own. Her mom, on the other hand, was experiencing a bit of ambivalence, to say the least.
Nutmeg is a very responsible, level-headed girl. She has good judgement, common sense, and is an excellent driver. My husband even trusted her with his brand new car after she'd only been driving with her permit a few months. That said, in her mama's heart she is still that little baby she brought home from the hospital sixteen years ago.
Upon contemplating the prospect of her baby driving from Boulder to Westminster...on the highway...in the evening...by herself, the mama bear inside started to rise up. She emailed me, "Babies aren't supposed to drive away from their mamas!" And she is absolutely right! Except that her baby is now sixteen and is supposed to drive away, but also to come home.
So how do we let go without going crazy? Little by little. By practicing Aparigraha (Sanskrit for non-clinging). Learning when to hold on and when to let go, when to supervise and when to trust, taking small risks and leaps of faith, teaching our children the skills they need and recognizing that each little step of independence is a letting go.
For Nutmeg, that whole year of driving with a permit was part of this process...plus the fifteen years of parenting she received before that. Her parents have built a fabulous foundation and strong roots for her, the sky is the limit for how and where she will grow. As parents we work to build that strong foundation day by day and then have to trust that our kids will use those roots to ground themselves as they test out their wings and fly (or in this case drive). We are still there to catch them when they stumble or fall and help them work through their mistakes. Little by little means just that, baby steps for the kids and the parents. We are all learning together.