Riding Without Training Wheels

Disclaimer: This isn’t a post about stitching, although I suppose I could weave a stitchy metaphor into it, if I tried. 😉 I decided to post this here anyway, as it gives a glimpse of the person who holds these hoops in her hands and pulls these threads through. Read on, if you like. If not, here is a picture of my couch as it looks right now. Stitching carnage:


Background: My immediate family consists of me, my partner Pritts, and my son Eliot. Eliot’s immediate family consists of Pritts and I, and his dad, his stepmom, and his half-brother. Eliot is the link between our two little families. He lives with me and Pritts half the time, and his dad’s family the other half the time. Yesterday, with his dad’s family, he rode his bike without the training wheels for the first time ever.

Story: I was weepy for a bit yesterday about not being the one to hold onto the seat of Eliot’s bike and run with him until letting go, about not being the one who got to slip a dollar under his pillow the night he lost his first tooth, about all the firsts I’m likely to miss over the years because my only son only lives with me half the time. And then I thought to myself, parenting is basically an ongoing lesson in letting go.

Letting go of the fantasy in your head about what kind of parent you were going to be. Letting go of the expectation of all the beautiful Hallmark moments you were going to have. Letting go of the illusion of ownership and control.

These are lessons that can only be learned in the living of them.

My experience of parenting isn’t any more difficult than anyone else’s. Every parent has to learn to let go of these things. Regardless of family structure, whether you’re parenting with your child’s other biological parent, or step-parent, or adoptive parent, if you’re parenting with your child’s grandparents, if you’re parenting alone: you are engaged in a process of letting go.

You don’t have a choice about whether to let go; everyone must. The choice is in how you let go. You can let go gracefully, or you can grasp and cling selfishly to something that never really belonged to you in the first place.

I try to choose the path of grace as often as I am able.

I also try to identify that which I can grab onto and hold and treasure: the truth that love, when shared between more people, multiples and grows. Love isn’t a pie with only so many wedges to go around. Love is more like a potluck, where everyone brings a dish to share, and more people at the table means more sustenance for everyone, not less. I hold that truth with gratitude.

I hold in my hands, gently, with care, like a small delicate bird, the relationship Eliot’s stepmom and I have built—the one that allows her to text me video of him riding his bike without training wheels for the first time, the one that allows me to watch that video and love her voice on it, and her son’s voice, cheering my son on.

I hold onto the moments I never expected to be given, like when I see my partner and my son laughing together, conspiring in some secret plot they’ve hatched against me.

As I let go of the plans I made, the expectations I had, I grab onto what my life has produced instead: I am well loved, and loved well, and so is my son. I let everything else fall away.