Many years ago, I was blessed with one of my first grandchildren, Brittany. Her parents lived close by so we had the good fortune of having her around — a lot. We were not the baby sitters; we were family location number two. She was an active child and always wanting to help. One day we were changing vehicles and her little brother Joey’s car seat needed moved from one car to another. Britt stood up and stated, with confidence, that she would do it. It seemed like a monumental task for a 4-year-old weighing in at 30-pounds.
We walked out to the car and I unhooked the car seat. Britt picked it up and started carrying it across the yard. She held it up high to keep it from dragging in the grass, barely able to see over the top. I watched helplessly while she trudged across the yard. The doting grandfather that I am had to ask, “Is there anything I can do?
She looked around and said, “Can you make sure I don’t step in anything?”
“Okay, good idea,” I thought, “we do have dogs.” I quietly walked along side her watching for doggy land mines.
I will never forget that moment. She was teaching me to let go—to become an observer, and do it with minimal guidance. Her request was a metaphor. Letting go, but watching carefully—the relationship and responsibility a parent has with a child. It’s one thing to be there for your children, it’s quite another to rob them of their independence and the experience gained from challenging their limits. She could have fallen and maybe even gotten a bruise, and the irresponsible grandparent resoundingly grilled.
Even though it is tough to watch our children fail or get hurt, it may be harder to know when to step aside or when to say no. Today, I am reliving the lesson of letting go. At the time of this writing, Brittany is 7 weeks into Marine Corps basic training, Parris Island. I hope our family has prepared her well for what will be one of the biggest challenges in her life. I have let go, but she knows we are there for her.