I Have to Let Him Go.

During our vacation, we spent one evening at the beach.

It was low tide on a Great Lake, so the little waves went on and on and on. When we first walked into the water, which was calm and warm, the water went up to our ankles. We walked a bit further and it went up to our knees. We walked a long, long, long way – and it went up to our waists.

The kids had fun jumping and splashing in the waves, but I got tired and went in to sit and watch the sunset from the sand. A little while later, Shane got out of the water, and Bill took him to the nearby swimming pool.

Dylan stayed in the water, so I stayed on the sand to make sure he was safe.

I’d told Dylan about drop-offs, and how he had to be careful to stay close to shore. But the waves went way, way out into the water. And Dylan went way, way out into the water, too. With every wave he jumped over, he went a little bit further. The water was only up to his chest, but the waves kept rolling in, so I could only see his head bobbing above the waves.

Sometimes, I couldn’t even see his head.

And as I sat on that chair in the sand I thought, This is how it’s going to be. 

As he drifted further and further away from shore, jumping wave after wave and having a great time, I realized that I had two choices. I could race out into the water and drag him back in to shore, or I could sit and watch while he did whatever he was going to do.

And in life, I realized, those were my choices, too.

In my opinion, Dylan wasn’t making a wise decision to go so far out. But Dylan – who has never known anyone to be swept away by an undertow – thought he was making a fine decision. He thought he could handle the Great Lake on his own. He’s tall, and strong, and – like most teenagers – utterly invincible.

I have to let him go, I thought. I have to let him make his own choices, and do his own thing. I have to let him go.

And I sat on the shore and I cried. I cried because I know he’s going to make really stupid decisions, and that I won’t be able to stop him. I cried because he could quite literally die if he makes those stupid decisions, and I will never see his beautiful smile again.

Then I remembered that what happens is God’s will, not mine. And I prayed my standard prayer: “Please keep him safe and healthy, God. Please keep my child safe and healthy.”

I repeated it like a mantra while the tears rolled out from under my sunglasses, and the sun disappeared leaving the sky full of bright, gorgeous colors.

Eventually, I stopped crying and just watched.

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