Letting Go

Ever since becoming a mother I have had issues with detachment–the yogic/Buddhist philosophy of non attachment to anything–if you have no attachments or expectations you can never be disappointed therefore you alleviate the vast majority of your suffering.  All suffering stems from non acceptance of reality.  If you could just accept reality as it is–with no expectations or attachments all would be good and your suffering would cease.

Yeah–ok–that is all well in good in theory–but how the hell do you detach from your children?  I was placed in the very unpleasant situation of having to let my child go 4 years before I was ready for him to leave home and go off to college. Not only that–he was (and still is) in an environment that is so not one of my choosing–I believe it is toxic to him and has changed the course of his life dramatically– it is physically painful when I think about where he is and how they are non parenting….all my goals and dreams for my child, all my carefully laid plans, all my hard work, perseverance, dedication and love for this child were being tossed to the winds without a second glance–and actually worse than that–they are being trampled with contempt.

And I was sad and angry about that–to put it mildly–to be more accurate I was filled with rage, hate, grief, sorrow like I have never experienced, frustration, regret, and shame– basically every emotion that causes suffering…and according to the gurus–I just had to practice detachment and all would be well….uh-huh

How do we let go of our children?  I kept asking this question–how do I let go of my child?  over and over again–I grappled with this question….I knew that by practicing acceptance things had become better between us–minimally–but there was improvement….I could accept the way things were–I didn’t like it–but I had no alternative–cold hard reality is cold hard reality…but I was finding it very difficult to be at peace with it though.–How does one let go of their child?

 Spirituality & Health a magazine I subscribe too finally showed me an answer to this question.  They have a column by Rabbi Rami Shapiro–its one of those question and answer deals–and the guy is brilliant–he is a spiritual genius and a very practical person.  He has a way of taking these complex spiritual questions and making them understandable and even doable.  So some brave mom  asked the following question–

“I am a spiritual seeker and mother of three.  I keep running into and resisting the notion of detachment.  Am I supposed to detach from my children and stop loving them?”  (why it never occurred to me to send the question in, I will never know–but thankfully some other more aware mom did)

Rabbi Rami’s answer– “Detachment is about liberating ourselves from clinging–not loving.  Loving your children means (among other things) helping them to cultivate a sense of uniqueness, autonomy, and integrity without losing their sense of interdependence and responsibility.  This requires that you detach yourself not from them but from your idea of who they should become, and that you open your heart ever wider to who they really are.”

This blew my mind and sent huge waves of relief thru me.  This I could do–I could see where large parts of my emotional upheaval was being caused because my well laid plans and ideas of who my son should become was not coming into fruition…my son right now–was expressing his autonomy from me–in a very loud way…could I open my heart to who my son was expressing himself to be right now…of course, I could.  I love my son unconditionally–and if that’s all I could do for him right now–thru his own choice–then that’s all I could do.  and surprisingly, I found I could live with that.  When I see my son I see his uniqueness, his creativity, his humor, his strength, his passion, his confusion, his pain, his suffering, his curiosity, his compassion, and yes even his unexpressed love for me….when I accepted the fact that I was not in control of his life but could still be a good parent by reinforcing and accepting my son as is…within the situation as is–I found peace.

This is not to say that I feel this peace every day–it is a work in progress–because every time something new comes up that in my opinion is interfering with my sons ability to be the best he can be–like not getting braces, not eating right, not getting his license, not having a summer job, not getting A’s & B’s etc…I have to reread this question and answer and sit with my feelings to determine where they are being derived from.  Sitting with the suffering until I can detach from my idea of who he should be becoming….and accept who he is becoming right here and right now.  Knowing full well that when he is ready for braces and in a place where he can defy his fathers authority–I will provide the braces for him–in the meantime, I am here to love him and accept him, to guide him towards autonomy, integrity, interconnectedness and responsibility….