I’ve been investing intentional practice around the fact that my stepson is growing older and will soon be “out there,” left to his own devices, since even before he entered high school, so as not to not experience what I’ve heard so many parents of senior-year students speak to, in terms of being caught off guard and full of sorrow that their kids were all grown up and moving out. It seemed to me a rather implausible reality that a parent should feel so suddenly disjointed at the prospect of their child reaching a certain young-adult maturity level, as though they somehow didn’t see it coming all the years of their youth and moving out to start a life of their own wasn’t part of the deal.
But now I sorta get it.
Despite all my efforts to look deeply into the nature of impermanence and work to develop my practice in the art of letting go, just the other day I suddenly realized that my husband and I’s time with my 18-year old stepson is incredibly short. I did the math. Given how our residential schedule is lined out in our parenting plan – a schedule we’ve up-held diligently since he was at the tail end of first grade – we have a total of three remaining weeks with him until he graduates from high school, at which point he will be choosing to live full time with his mom and stepdad.
Just this morning I came across a lovely quote from Jack Kornfield on twitter, which states: To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.
This transitional experience happening with my stepson reminds me of the practice of pre-grieving, which I’ve posted about in the past. The act of pre-grieving for our loved ones who will inevitably pass away (which, in short, entails looking deeply into the reality that death is part of life and will happen for each of us – our closest held loved ones especially – and how we are unable to forecast it), is not intended to belay feelings of sorrow and loss when death of a loved one occurs. Pre-grieving is about learning how to situate and angle ourselves in the direction of appreciation for the time we are afforded with our friends and family in the here and now, because we are able to see clearly that life is precious and time is short.
This is all to say that it makes sense to me that the practice I’ve put into learning how to acknowledge, accept, and embrace my stepson’s journey of growing up – and my ever-changing step-parenting role in tandem – wouldn’t erase these feelings I’m experiencing now: concern for his ability to find his footing as an adult, sorrow for soon not having him as an active part of our family household, and a low-level degree of fear for what his unfolding future, full of question marks, will yield.
My practice now: to observe and befriend these rising feelings as simply part of what it means to be human, just like everything else. To let them be just as they are, without trying to fight, corral, push away, or offer footnotes and explanations as to their presence. And as always, do my best to offer my full presence to him when we’re together, immersing myself in as much gratitude as I can muster for the time we have.