My fourteen year old son Noah is working on a school project out on the driveway right now. He’s using a Jigsaw to hack out an ancient Aztec bat-weapon-thing from a chunk of hapless plywood. Fifteen minutes ago I showed him how to use the saw, how to stay reasonably safe, and how to rip effective cuts. Then I walked away. To let him do it himself.
I needed to, you see.
For him. For me. He’s growing up. Way, way up. And I need to let go of some things. I don’t have to be “the amazing dad who can even wield power tools” anymore. But he, on the other hand, needs to become “the studly dude who can even use power tools.” The principle is this: What I lay down, he’s able to pick up.
I used to prevent him from trading in his prized video games for new ones I knew he wouldn’t like. Then I took a step back, merely advising him along the way. This week, I kept my mouth shut and let him make bad purchase. It stung him a little. Good.
When I let go like that, he takes the extra rope I’m giving him and tests it out for himself. If I hang on too tightly, if I yank him too close, I will arrest his development. My job isn’t to raise him to need me, its to raise him to surpass me.
It’s tough being a parent. I want to hang on to things. As each stage passes, I grieve a little, or sometimes a lot. My little girl (Glory) is now as tall as her mom (at age 11, for crying out loud). My youngest, Joel, is now big enough that he can’t jump on my back when we wrestle on the floor. At least, not without sending me to the morgue.
I don’t like it. I want to be a family hoarder. I want to hold on to everything, every stage, everything I am to my kids. But if I do that, I’ll have my arms full when God tries to give me something new. But as I let go of things, of roles, of titles, I’m becoming new things to my kids. Not the unrealistic hero, the dad who can do anything, but the cherished guide. The safety net. The coach.
Phew! Noah finished his weapon.
Now if I can just get him to clean everything up…