I Didn't Let Her Go
Posted by H. Schumaker on Jun 22, 2018

I Didn't Let Her Go

The start of summer is officially here and on this beautiful Friday, things are warm and sunny and so fabulous. School is out in most places, moms and dads are frantically trying to figure out camp schedules, summer vacations, cook-outs, get-togethers and graduation parties. Weddings are on the horizon for many and the calendar is filling up faster than you can say ‘watermelon margarita’. Yes, summer is in full swing and I love it.

Today is special for other reasons outside of it being the second day of summer. On this day, 19 years ago, at 12:57 pm on a Tuesday afternoon, a tiny little girl was born. She was a little overdue, 10 days to be exact, and was born with a full head of dark curly hair and perfect little rosebud lips - exactly as her Nana had dreamed. She was the spitting image of her daddy. And this little girl, we named her Alexandra Kay. But many of you know her simply by the name Lexi.

I have told the story so many times, how it was Lexi and I against the world with Rob still having 9 weeks left in the academy. We had no money to speak of, the only car we had Rob had to use to travel back and forth to the academy on Monday morning and then back home on Friday night and I had no idea how to care for a baby. And Lexi must’ve known because she was the world's easiest baby. Rarely if ever fussed, slept through the night from the very beginning, good-natured, easy going, you name it. To say Rob and I were head over heels in love with her is an understatement.

And now that tiny girl is a grown woman. Her hopes and dreams are growing and evolving just as she herself is growing and evolving. And I look back on a post I wrote a year ago, “And you let her go”. And I’m a little bit shamed, a teensy bit disappointed in myself. Because I didn’t let her go. Don’t get me wrong - my intent was in the right place for sure. But the reality of it is, I held on for dear life when what I had promised, what I had pledged, what I had preached was that this was about HER. So today, on her 19th birthday, my gift to her is not just acknowledging what I failed to do but to also peel my fingers away and snip the last of the ties. And really, truly, completely let her go.

A Look Back

So to be fair, I went back to my post and looked at what I had encouraged of her. What I asked and demanded. And where I succeeded and where I did not so much. And it was eye-opening. And a little humbling. And a little irritating to be honest. So here goes...

Reinvent yourself

Don’t be weighed down by your past. Reinvent whom you are, what you want from life, etc. Figure that version of you out and set them free.

Reinvention intention - What I meant

Absolutely do it. Reinvent and be anyone you want to be. But make sure you follow these rules, check these boxes. Because anything different - well, that’s simply not how we do things.

Reinvent redefined - What I’ve learned.

Who the heck am I to judge? Part of reinventing whom you are and what you want out of life is that YOU are the driver of that bus. Our experiences shape us, the people we surround ourselves with become our tribe. Reinvent yourself based off of your life - not the path in life I believe you should follow.

Be that man/woman you admire

Be the person in your life that has the qualities that you admire. Embrace those qualities and don’t be afraid to think that you can’t weave those into your own life, your own experiences. Have confidence or fake it til you make it. Be kind and see the good in others even when you’re having a bad day. Be that man or woman.

Admiration - What I was thinking

Embrace just the good in people. The qualities that I admire, that I think you need to make you a successful individual. Basically - be like me. A 46 year old woman who has had life experiences and knows what is up ahead of you. Don’t think like an 18 year old. (For the record, this is kind of not fun for me right now.)

Inspire admiration - What I know now

Sometimes you are the inspiration. Sometimes you need to admire the qualities in your own self first before you go opening doors looking to admire others. And sometimes those qualities that we admire in others allow us to overlook their less than desirable attributes and simply focus on the good because it is someone we care about. I’m all for being perceived in that way and I needed a reminder that she is allowed that same perception of others without being judged for it.

Why not you?

Be limitless. Think outside the box. Instead of saying, “Not me!” stand up loud and proud and shout, “Why NOT me!” Don’t pigeon yourself into the way you have always done things. The sky is the limit, the time is now.

Yes, you - What I should have said

Here’s your manual. This is how we do it. These are the things that are acceptable and allowable and won’t make me uncomfortable. When I say why not you I mean as long as your mother thinks it’s okay.

Oh the places you’ll go - Encourage it

Be the Nike commercial and just do it. Throw caution to the wind, do the things that you think you cannot do. Don’t let fear hold you back from taking a giant bite out of life. At times the bite may be too big, maybe you will even choke on it a little and have to figure out that sometimes a nibble will suffice. But that choice is yours to make - NOT mine.

Call your parents

Pick up the phone and call mom and pops. Give them a ring, not a text and fill them in on life. They are missing you and want to hear your voice.

Ring ring - Oh boy did I miss the mark

Touch base with me every day. Text, phone call, what have you. That is what we have always done and just because you are away at college does not mean that you no longer have to text mommy good night and I love you. Because that is what we do and some things are not allowed to change. (Oh, there’s the shame…)

Call out my name - Please just once a week

Call me once a week. FaceTime is better so that I can read your emotions, make eye contact, see you smile. If you are staying away from campus, a quick text to let me know is appreciated. No questions asked, no why’s, just common consideration. Don’t let five days go by without at least saying, “I’m good. Love you. Bye.” That’s it. Just a quick tap, a little tag, a little something to ease any worry. But no more every day.

Don’t leave a friend behind

Don’t do it - never leave a friend behind. Birds of a feather flock together and we take care of one another. It can be a pain but the bottom line is that there is safety in numbers and you don’t ever want to be the one that is left behind.

Friend or Foe - What I was trying to say

Don’t put yourself in a position where you are the one that is left behind. Don’t do it. Don’t make decisions that could cost you. Be the one that is safe, be the one that takes care of others, essentially be a fun sponge and the responsible one. (Seriously…I so would not want me for a mom.)

Take care of your tribe - Teach it

Sometimes our 'friends' aren’t really our friends or acting particularly friend-like. And sometimes despite your best efforts to not leave someone behind, they are not only unwilling to go but they are unappreciative of your efforts. Be a good person, attempt to always take care of your own. But realize that you can’t save everybody and that at the end of the day, it is a lifeboat of one. Be accountable for your actions and just do your best to know that when you wake up in the morning, your intent was good but the burden of blame is not on you.

Dress for success

Dress the right way for school. Don’t show up in sweatpants and a ratty t-shirt. You want to be taken seriously? Then dress appropriately. Clean clothes, orderly appearance, etc.

Dressing disclosure - You aren’t wearing that

Dress for success in all aspects of your life. That means what you wear to school is totes appropriate for what you wear out at night. Like to a party. No, we do NOT shop at Forever 21. We shop at safe stores like American Eagle and maybe Macys. We certainly are not to show a lot of skin or wear things too tight or too short or too anything. (Obviously I haven’t been to college since the dinosaur age.)

Clothing counsel - Turning a blind eye

Okay I am not going to agree with all of your clothing choices. I certainly don’t agree with the clothing choices that make their way from my closet to yours. But you are 19 and I am not and what you wear is up to you. I’m working on not raising the eyebrows, on keeping my lips closed and simply telling you that you look beautiful - which you always do. I’m not up to speed on college fashion and there is a reason why.

Make rules for yourself

Make rules for yourself and stick to those rules. Whatever they may be - follow them and don’t waver.

Rules by my measure - let me articulate

Live by the same rules you’ve always lived by and don’t disappoint me. The end.

Rule breaker - Educate me

Some rules are meant to be broken. Fact. And some are not. And you will break some of both. That’s on you and that is how you learn. As a parent, you hope that the ones that they break do not have life altering consequences. But it’s your rule book now, not mine.

Know that you will fail

Not everything is going to go perfect. You’re going to fail along the way. Failure is okay, a part of life.

Fighting failure - Calling caution

Don’t fail. Please. We’ve worked too hard, sacrificed too much just so that you could NOT fail. Given you all the tools in your toolbox to be successful. Follow the path, do as we’ve counseled and you will have a bright and beautiful future.

Failure isn’t final - Gentle guidance

Failure is a part of life. I just never wanted it to be a part of their life. But there is no other way that they learn and grow unless they fail at getting it right. And pick themselves back up, dust themselves off and try again. It’s not my job to rescue her from those failures - it’s her job to have them and work through them. And then try and try again.

Rise

Get up every day, rise and stand for something. Rise to the challenge.

Raise the bar - Me, me, me

Get up every day and do things the way that I want you to do them. See things through my glasses, not your own. Don’t lay in bed and feel sorry for yourself.

Get a rise - Praise it

Some days a good old wallowing in bed is deserved. Earned. A day of binge watching Netflix and having a pity party with Domino. Shouldn’t be an every day occurrence but every now and again - you can choose to just lay in your bed and say, “Not today” to life.

Wash your sheets

Ha! Some things we learn the hard way.

Know that your parents are there

Mom and dad are there for you. They have your back, they’ve got you. Don’t be afraid to call on them when you need them.

Mommy is here - Read between the lines

Ask for my counsel on everything. I have all the answers, I understand what you’re going through. Yes, I know it was 100 years ago but times really haven’t changed. And, no worries that you might not want my opinion because it is free. And I’ll give it to you regardless.

Here for you - Take a step back

I’ve had to redefine this one significantly. I need to be here for her on her terms but also on my own. Being here for one another does not mean when it suits my best interest or when you are engaging in things that I don’t like, believe in or trust. It means allowing her to do so and being her safety net, her soft place to land. Without saying, “I told you so.”

Be accountable

Be accountable to yourself, for your actions, to your life. If you’re called to the carpet on it - own it. Don’t play the blame game.

Accountability - Act responsibly

Do what I think you should do when I think you should do it. Don’t make foolish choices. Think five steps ahead. Basically, have all the knowledge and wisdom that we have in our late 40’s - use that wisdom now as you step into adulthood. (ugh)

Accountability acceptance - Silence is key

I can’t save her. I can’t force her to see what I see, be what I want, do as I would do. And if I keep trying to do any of the above than I am effectively keeping her from being accountable for her actions. For her choices. For her life. And that IS NOT FAIR to her. So I silence my suggestions, keep my opinions to myself and, even when it’s asked for, try to encourage her to see things from all angles and make that decision on her own. Maybe a little more informed - but on her own nonetheless.

When in doubt call mom

Yes, call mommy.

Calling mom - Need I explain

Call your mom.

Not so much - Whom else can I call?

Good ole mom doesn’t always have the answers that you want. So let’s call someone else. Oh, mom got to them first so let’s call someone else. Ugh, mom already talked to them so guess I’ll try this person. So on and so forth. If you want my honest opinion, solicit it and know that I’m doing as you asked - being honest. If you don’t - than don’t ask for it. But I’m through giving advice or opinions that are not asked for.

Listen to your gut

If something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Time and time again, our gut instinct points us in the right direction. Listen to it.

Helllooooo - Are you in there

See above. Gut instinct. Powerful tool. Use it.

What does my gut know anyway - Can you hear me now

My gut instinct and her gut instinct are not always in sync. And you don’t learn to effectively listen to your gut until life smacks you hard across the face - all because you didn’t listen to your gut telling you the truth. Not my circus, not my monkeys. As an adult, that’s on her.

Be brave

Be brave and dare to be great. Choose the path less chosen and break free.

Bravado - I need a hero

Be brave and do the things I think are brave, have the experiences that I think are cool and fun and exciting. You, schmoo - me, me, me. This whole bravery thing is all about me being brave enough to let you go into the big bad world and do all the things I didn’t get to do - whether or not those are things that you WANT to do. (Sigh….like legit, this is not fun.)

We are brave - It's only just begun

In my efforts to want her to be brave I missed out on the fact that she already was being brave. That she was soaring, experiencing life as she knows it as a college student, a young woman, truly out there on her own and responsible for herself. And was doing so very successfully, figuring it out, trying new things and learning about herself. What is braver than that?

My World - Where We Stand

It has been a tough road. For one so smart, I did some dumb things. For one that preaches about letting go, I was holding on too tight. I sacrificed, I gave, I went without - all so that she could see, do, experience, have all the things I never did.

And I failed. Things did not go as I had planned and I failed. I failed myself, I failed her, I was an epic failure as a parent.

Or so I thought…

She is having those experiences. She is figuring things out. She is out there and seeing things and doing things and being brave. She is reinventing and figuring out just whom Lexi is. She is bright and bold, sweet and kind, so funny and so loving. She is a good friend, she is loyal and thoughtful and engaging and courageous. My Lexi, she is so perfect and imperfect all at once. She has a voice that she uses and she has a voice that she has yet to find out how it works. She doesn’t always call me for answers - she calls me to see my face and hear my voice too. She is NOT everything I had hoped she would be…she is more. So much more.

When our children become adults, it is hard. So much harder than what I understood it would be. I had no doubt I would be able to let her go...When I didn't fully embrace letting her go and it was in my choice to hold on so tight, keep that control, be in charge - that I risked losing what I was fighting so hard for - my relationship with my daughter.

And at the end of the day - I choose her. Good choices and not so good choices, successes and failures, at the end of my days, I will choose her. Trusting in my heart that she will find her path, let her journey play out the way it is meant to, defined by her terms - not mine.

Let them go. Really, truly, to the best that you can and then some - let them go. Our adult children will do great things - Deans List, sports teams and clubs, relationships, friendships, peeling back the layers of greatness that are there waiting to present themselves in glorious fashion. And they will make mistakes. They will fail miserably, they will disappoint us and disappoint themselves, they will make you afraid and angry and upset. And that is what they need to do. All of it. That is their right of passage to adulthood. It is not up to us as adults to create those great moments for them any more than it is to save them from those mistakes. We don’t lose them by letting them go. We lose them when we hold on too tight.

Happy 19th birthday, Alexandra. I am so proud of the young woman you are, the way in which you are navigating your journey and so honored to be your momma. No matter where you go, no matter where life takes you, know in your heart that no matter what - I will be your soft place to land.  And I will forever and always choose you.