Thursday, May 19, 2011

Letting Go

It was a beautiful Chol Hamoed morning, which was quickly turning into afternoon, as we spent hours on the phone deciding how to spend our day. We were in our late teens, getting ready to take our first tentative steps into the real world - too grown up for rides and amusement parks, but not quite ready to give them up. We finally settled on a trip to Astroland, where we'd hold on to our childhood for just a little bit longer.

The park was crowded and the lines were long as I waited for my turn on the water flume. I watched a family climb into a boat, and I smiled in anticipation as I saw the boat begin its plunge, its occupants screaming in delight, their arms waving in the air.

And then I watched in horror as the boat suddenly flipped over, spilling all who were in it into the water and onto the tracks. I watched in a haze as they stood up, blood running down their faces. All around me, people were screaming and running to help, while I stood frozen, numb, unable to move.

I never talked about what I saw. I couldn't. I just wanted to bury it somewhere deep inside me and never think about it again. And I was successful - during the day. At night, the images haunted me, robbing me of my sleep. Every time I'd close my eyes, the scene would replay itself in slow motion. For weeks - maybe months - I was afraid of going to sleep. Afraid of the flashbacks and the nightmares.

And I promised  myself that when I'd have children, I wouldn't allow them on these rides. I'd protect them.

Years passed. I got married and had children. And I didn't keep my promise.

My little boy's day camp sent a DVD of last summer along with the camp application. He happily relived the excitement of camp as he watched the video. He showed me the carnival and the magic show and the trips. He was thrilled every time he caught sight of himself. And then he showed me the major trip.

My older boys are more cautious, but my little boy is fearless. There is no ride big enough or wild enough to scare him. He'd try anything. Until now, I naively believed that the height requirements would keep him from riding all but the tamest of rides. Apparently, he'd grown past those requirements a while ago. I was uneasy as he showed me the rides he'd been on and told me about the new amusement park they'd be going to this summer, with even bigger and better rides.  But I put aside my anxiety and smiled as I shared his excitement.

I made a promise to myself many years ago, but it is a promise that would be unfair to my children. I may be uncomfortable with some of the things they do, but I can't let my fears deprive them of a normal childhood.

Sometimes letting go takes more strength than holding on.

I can't always protect them. I need to let let them fly....and let Hashem take over.


  1. Sounds like it was a pretty traumatic experience. It's a shame you didn't discuss it with someone right away.

    As for letting go, 100% right. My mother is quite protective but she never restricted us from doing all the normal kid and teenage activities. She always says, "Every bullet has its address." And she really believes it.

    I don't think it's possible to survive in this world without bitachon...

  2. I can totally relate to the conflict of letting go. My daughter is only 2 1/2 so I feel the need to protect her from everything dangerous. However, there are times that I have to give her the chance to learn things on her own, like playing in the playground or walking down the sidewalk. I know she will get hurt a few times but I also know that she will learn and grow from spreading her wings. If we keep our children confined because of our own fears, we are doing them a disservice. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Wow. Letting go is harder than holding on, well put!

    I appreciate the way your blog helps me dig things out of my own memory, things that from today's perspective would be shocking!

    I always marvel at how much more we are protective of our kids than our parents were to us. As a 12 year old kid, I was able to literally disappear to the park all afternoon, come home late, and my parents didn't seem the least concerned.

    Come to think of it, its amazing how we survived. I remember, as an 18 year old boy, me and two friends rented a car and took a three day trip from NY through Virginia. My parents had no issue believing that an "older boy" is responsible and in charge, and didn't figure out that he was a 19 year old kid too. I distinctively remember him driving the big Mercury Marquis, and the needle of the speedometer went WAY past the 120mph mark. He was chucking how he was trying to get the needle all the way straight DOWN, as "straight down is about 140..."

    LOL, my son is 12 now, and I walk or drive him EVERYWHERE!

  4. i find that the most difficult thing to let go of is my convictions that my children need to be raised with all the aspects i needed and didn't get - i was a very different child and what was necessary for me is not for my daughter. i have to dig really deep inside to let go of all that, and see her as a new person with a new destiny. it's quite a challenge.
    what you saw was pretty traumatic. to really separate yourself from that is extremely commendable. kudos to you! once again, awesome parenting:)

  5. SIR...

    I do the same thing. I let them go. But I'm not as easy going about it as your mother seems to be. When my son's camp took him on a helicopter ride, I worried! (Ok...I didn't know about that until afterwards, but I WOULD have worried. :))


    I don't remember feeling that way when my kids were that young. I think the first time I felt that was when they were learning to ride a bike.


    Driving is a WHOLE 'nother story. That seriously scares me.


    I think we all do that to some extent...give our kids what we didn't get. But that's ok, as long as we also give them what THEY need.
    Thank you!

  6. Wow, that must've been a real traumatic experience...and that's my favorite ride at Astroland! The only one that's really fun!!

    You make such a good point - it's so important not to let our fears get in the way of the freedom and exploration (is that a word?! lol) our children need.
    And I LOVE that line - letting go takes more strength than holding on - so, so true!

    You are such a good mother to your children. It's all about balance and it sounds like you've got it perfectly!

    Do your children realize how lucky they are?!