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Letting Go

March 13, 2010

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” 
-Thornton Wilder

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how attached I get to my stuff. Well, I get more attached to people. At the end of this week, I am reflecting on letting go. Empty-nest syndrome anyone? I am only 27, but there are times when I feel like an empty-nester. Let me explain.

For almost three years, Hope was as close to a daughter as I’ve had. We are only 9 years apart and we look about the same age, but for all intents and purposes I felt like I became a mother when she moved in with us. We met her when we became youth leaders at the youth group at our local church. She was 14 at the time. Her home situation was troubled and when she was 16, she needed a place to live. I am not trying to make us sound heroic when I say we took her in, at all. It just seemed like the natural thing to do with someone we had a relationship with.

The first challenge was to build a sense of family between the three of us. Hope was naturally shaken up by the move to a new place, being away from her friends and her sisters and even though her relationship with her mom is troubled, being away from her was a big change too. I felt at a complete loss of what to do most of the time as suddenly we had a teenager around who stayed up into the wee hours of the morning talking on the computer and left her stuff lying around everywhere. Also, her fingers seemed attached to her cellphone. What was up with that?! I don’t even own a cellphone and here I was walking down the street with someone who would carry on a conversation with me, avoid walking into anything and pound away on the tiny keyboard on her cellphone having multiple conversations with many people at the same time. I know I am a little old-fashioned in some ways, but it would make my head spin. She did it all with ease.
Even though we had a talk about expectations at the start, a lot of this went out of the window quickly. What was important to us was that she let us know where she was and that she’d be home by her curfew. Mostly, she was. We felt it was important for her first of all to feel safe and after a while we started to find our balance together.

Making apple pie together for Thanksgiving

Our second year was easier. Not that there weren’t ups and downs, but we had many good times. She is very independent and liked to be at her friend’s houses a lot, but we also tried to make time to have dinner together and to watch movies. I always tried to find out what was going on in her life and to be present and listen without judging. I felt like this time was a huge learning curve. I think when you have a teenager in your life, you want to keep them from making mistakes, but you realize you are helpless in some ways, because their choices are their own. But you can still do some important things: You can pray, try to talk to help them make the right choices and be there to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. But then there were times when Hope kept her feelings inside and wasn’t ready to share or she’d rather talk to friends, and not being able to be there was hard too.

The biggest thing I felt on a personal level over the course of that time is that my heart was opened in a very unexpected way. Like most of us, I have my own set of walls that keep people out and that feel like protection around my heart. Some of these walls had to come down in order to let Hope in, but more than that it was a time where many people came into my life and house, some just once, some for a longer period of time, that I wouldn’t normally be around. Hope has a very big heart and loves with abandon, sometimes too much so (and we’ve had talks about this too). And I learned from this. My husband, too, is one of the most non-judgmental people I know and I learn from him too.

There are different seasons in life and last August, Hope decided she wanted to live on her own. One of her friends needed a roommate and she moved out into the big world. Now, she is moving again. Her Dad has made an appearance in her life again and invited her to come live with him. She is facing a new adventure which I pray and hope will turn out well. And it is time once again for me to let her go. Even though, I haven’t seen her very often since she moved out, we have still had her here for Christmas, for dinner and a movie and a few weeks ago we went to church together again the three of us, which felt so right. Now she’ll be too far away for all that. Thankfully, there is Skype and e-mail.

It felt right for Ben and myself in a way to have our house to ourselves again. But there are times that I miss how there was a sense of unpredictability to my life before, where I never quite knew who was gonna drop in and where we might end up with one or more additions at the dinner table or at breakfast. I miss that feeling of being so thankful of the love that we had together, Ben and me and Hope. I feel fortunate to have experienced this with them and I know that one day we’ll have kids of our own and there will be times when I long for peace and quiet. So, I’m trying to enjoy this quieter season right now.

There is no doubt that I love this girl, though and she will always have a place in my heart no matter where she, or Ben and me, end up in this world.

Hope with Splinter, the only cat she likes.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2010 4:48 pm

    Wow starting off with a teenager is quite the introduction to parenting. My husband and I have “adopted” a 20 year old but this was after our own son had already moved out. We are actually visiting our “daughter” right now. She has recently moved to another state to attend graduate school. I’ve never lived with her but our relationship has grown over the last two years and I do love her like my own.

  2. March 13, 2010 11:38 pm

    thank you for the sweet comment on my blog!! I just added your blog to my google reader!

  3. March 14, 2010 10:23 pm

    i had an aunt who passed away after she gave birth to my cousin. her grandmother took care of her for about a year and then we took care of her for about a year. let’s just say that was the best birth control for a 15 year old because taking care of a 2 year old cousin was NUTS! :D it’s nothing compared to a teenager. i give you kudos for having such an open and generous heart. -sandra (fellow unraveller ;-)

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