My fifteen-year-old just returned from a class trip on the other side of the country. She arrived home late Saturday night, after her sisters had already gone to bed, and then she slept late the next day.
The younger girls tumbled over each other like puppies when their big sister finally got up. So much to tell her—how the neighbor’s pet rabbit escaped and the girls recaptured it, the path cleared through the brambles on the other side of the creek, a fort under construction by teamwork of the neighborhood kids, and a summer play to be put on by neighborhood actors.
A lot happens in a week when you’re a kid and the weather’s decent.
I listened to the sisterly excitement, but something kept me in the next room—eavesdropping, not joining in. This was their scene, not to be upstaged by my presence.
They are my girls and I am their mother, but more and more often I rejoice in the friendships and even the disagreements they have without me or Todd to moderate. They are learning to get along without a parental chaperone, a skill that will ensure this family’s bond once Todd and I are dead and gone.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I hope to be around for a long time for these girls, and I want in on most of the fun as long as I’m here. But at the same time, I’m not their relational glue. I don’t want to be the center of our family.
When Todd’s mom died, I read that at the time of an elderly parent’s death, the grown children will grieve not only for the loss of that parent, but for the loss of family. Once Grandma and Grandpa are gone, the aunts and uncles tend to grow more distant, the cousins lose their glue and the family joints grow loose.
Todd’s parents are both gone now, and perhaps there is more distance between him and his brothers than there was before. But not much. We were together at Christmas. We’ll be together again this summer. These grown Harris boys and their wives and children are consciously choosing to hold hands in a circle that no longer has a parent in the center.
If my girls form a sisterly family bond now that is, at times, apart from me, they will be better prepared for the day when Todd and I are in the ground and they’re left with only each other.
It’s been said that watching your children grow up is a constant process of letting go. I am letting go so that they never have to.