letting go 



Loving your Child, Setting Them Free
by Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC

Our son stood up and left us.

We watched as he got up from his seat in our pew, shuffled past us, and joined the other young boys and girls walking the children's service, a religious education class for grade-schoolers. His face showed a mix of fear and excitement, and he stayed close to his sister as he moved down the aisle. As a first-grader, he was now eligible to go, but this was the first time he’d decided to join the others.

My wife and I sat in the pew together, alone there for the first time. Initially, I felt surprised. I had assumed he would stay with us until he “officially” started the first grade at school. Then I began to feel sadness, a longing for something I couldn’t quite describe.

I glanced at my wife. A tear rolled down her cheek. She was feeling the same thing. I slid over, and we held hands. Our last child was entering the first grade, and we felt part of him slipping away. He’d be in school for a full day now. He’d be more independent, and need us less often. And, he’d never again be the toddler he once was.

In our “stay positive” culture, many parents only see these times as a reason to celebrate. They see it as inevitable change, and ready themselves for the next challenge, and the next change.

But I couldn’t help feeling this. I didn’t want to bury my feelings of sadness. Those who shield themselves from these moments lose a great opportunity, for after this sadness is the possibility of growth. It is the kind of growth that results from pain, and makes us all more a part of the human family.

Half an hour later, my son returned to us, his eyes twinkling. He was excited to tell us about his new experience. We listened to him, and his smiling face helped to ease the sadness. In fact, it was impossible not to feel happy for him.

We sat there with him, knowing that morning he’d become a bit more confident, trusting, and independent. 

And, he moved just a bit further away from his parents.

Loving your kids is not always easy. There are painful times when we see them moving away from us.

But we must not avoid or run from these feelings, for they allow us to experience the fullness of the moment, be they joy or sorrow. They allow us the chance to increase our capacity for joy, while experiencing great sadness.

As we left church, the sun shone brightly as we turned our thoughts to the coming day. My son happily talked about his day at the children's service, and what he wanted to do when he got home.

He was well on his way.

And I hope his parents were, too.

Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches busy parents by phone to balance their life and improve their family relationships. For a FREE twenty minute sample session by phone; ebooks, courses, articles, and a FREE newsletter, go to 




child letting go adult

(c) 2004 Carl Caton

child letting go adult