Lara Patangan ponders how parents of older teens and young adults need to learn to trust God with our growing-up children.
Fully embracing the mundanity of my middle-aged life, I watched a documentary about an octopus. I won’t get into the details because you too may be interested in octopi documentaries so I don’t want to spoil anything. Yet one of the most interesting things I learned is that after an octopus lays her eggs, she quits eating and wastes away. By the time the eggs hatch, she dies. It’s like a Disney movie where the mom always dies and there’s an orphan having a coming of age adventure with lots of catchy songs that get stuck in your head.
For days, I kept thinking of the octopus laying there protecting her clutch of eggs while succumbing to starvation. I don’t know the biological reason for this. I just know that parenting in the later years feels like a separation comparable to death. And I apologize if that feels too dramatic for either a documentary or a Disney movie, but parenting during these years of increasing independence requires me to let go of all the details I have spent almost 20 years shaping. Having the privilege of being a mother has been the great honor of my life. As any mother knows, it requires stretching in ways that at times felt impossible. My role now is not so much to stretch but to contract, to loosen the grip on one of my greatest treasures so that the lull of life’s tide can carry him in a new direction. It feels counter to every instinct in my body. Yet, I understand that this has been my job all along – to give everything I could for him not because he is mine but so that the world can someday be his.
And of all this, makes me think of my faith. It helps me to understand how big God’s love is for us. It reminds me of how important it is to God that we use our free will to do good in the world. It gives me a greater appreciation of the unfathomable sacrifice God made so that I may know redemption. It allows me to understand love on a deeper level than joy. Letting go, surrender, and not checking the stalking app I installed on my college-age son’s phone to see if he has come home from a night out, is all drawing me closer to God. It helps me to know Him in a different way and makes me want to please Him more. I understand better what it means to be a beloved child of God – how much sin hurts Him, the depths of His generosity and mercy, and His great hope in every single one of us.
While at one time I used to decide what my son wore and ate, what he listened to and what he watched, and who he spent his time with and for how long, that is no longer my role. Instead, I trust God with the life of this ever-precious child that He let me borrow for some of the very best years of my life. It’s because of that trust that I realize that perhaps I am not like the octopus at all. Surrendering to God, even that which is most precious to us, is never a death but a gateway to a new life. Arm by arm, I am learning to let go so my son can write his own coming-of-age story.
May it end with happily ever after or at least a really interesting documentary.
Copyright 2020 Lara Patangan
Images (top to bottom): created in Canva Pro; Serena Repice Lentini (2018), Unsplash
About the Author
Lara Patangan is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. She believes the merits of mercy are among our greatest gifts as Christians. Her first book about works of mercy will be published in the spring by Our Sunday Visitor. Please visit MercyMatters.net to join this community that believes in the power of mercy to change the world.