The dumbest thing you could tell a new parent is the very thing most experienced parents say: “They grow up so fast.  One day they’re babies, the next day you’re paying for their weddings.” Not helpful.

And thank you for reminding me that in 20 years I’ll be full of regrets and wish I hadn’t gone to the bathroom so I could spend more time with my kids.  I don’t need help increasing my anxiety about parenting, but thanks for making a valiant effort in giving me a panic attack.

In approximately three hours, I will have a kindergartener.  I’ve dreaded this day since Ellia was two weeks old. When Ellia was born, Brett worked as the resident chaplain in one of Baylor’s dorms and Ellia lived in the kitchen next to the fridge.  We would turn on the vent above the stove as an attempt to block out the college students in the lobby.  When Ellia would wake up from her naps and give a little squeal, Brett and I would race each other to the kitchen, often throwing elbows, in order to get to her first.  We couldn’t wait till she was awake. We couldn’t wait for an excuse to hold her.

I’ve always been scared of time passing too quickly.  I’ve been afraid of forgetting moments I want desperately to nail down.

It’s amazing how quickly I can shove my heart into a pressure cooker with my own fear of missing out.  It’s easy to live in the darkness of regret, where we wonder if we made the most of our time—that place where our failures weigh on us like piles of bricks.

But these first days of kindergarten, these moments where Ellia doesn’t need me to hold her hand or carry her—these are the moments that teach me about open hands.

I can be really possessive.  I love to own things—clothes, vintage furniture items, futile hair taming products.   But possessiveness doesn’t suit me well.  I get uptight.  I don’t share well.  I feel a desperate need for more.

But I’ll try to possess almost anything—people, dreams, and memories.  This possessiveness makes me a hoarder.  I spend emotional effort trying to get as much as I can, comparing myself to others, fighting to make people like me.

Open hands invite us to enjoy.  Possessing invites us to control. We become anxious, overly protective, clingy, irrational and manipulative.

We weren’t made to own.

And no matter how much I want to, I don’t even own my kids.  I get to shepherd, care for and love these girls, but they are not mine to possess.

Loving requires us to hold people with open hands.  In our open hands, those around us have the freedom to express their unique voices.  They have the freedom to move and be and sometimes leave.  We have the place of enjoying instead of trying to control.  We have the opportunity to observe and delight instead of forcing people to be what we feel we need them to be.  When we enjoy others instead of seeking to own them, the people in our lives are freed to be who God has made them to be.

Open hands are hard.  Especially for protective moms.  We want to tighten our grip on the innocence of our children.  We want to hold our kids in the present even if it means denying them independence.

But I’ve figured out that most of my possessiveness is driven by my own fear.  What will happen if I stop trying to control? What will happen if I enjoy instead of possess people?  What if they choose to leave?  What if differences or distance of even death take someone out of my reach?

We try to possess people because we’re afraid.

But even our best efforts to control or possess never actually work.  The more we cling the more control we lose.  The harder we try to make people into what we want them to be, the less we’re able to love.

In open hands, there is an invitation to rest.

But open hands do not obliterate the potential for deep sadness—sadness in first days of school, sadness in rejection, sadness in loss.

But here, there is the potential for deep joy—the joy that comes from laying down control so that we can experience the freedom of love.  In this love, we shift our eyes from regret to the present.  It isn’t about what we feel we need as much as being present to what we have.

And I think it’s open hands which makes it possible for me to go pack a lunch for my picky five-year-old who needs to know that I enjoy her as much as I love her.

 

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