It’s hard to let go when you just want to hold on

I had aspirations as a child. I wanted to be an author, an artist, a teacher, an activist. At a young age, I wanted to cradle all the needy in my arms, soothe them and assure them that everything would be ok.

I brought home stray dogs and hungry children. I pillaged through my family’s cupboards to provide food for both. I searched my already bare closet for extra clothes, a toy, a trinket, something I could give to the kids that had nothing.

My maternal instincts kicked in early and intensely. And while I did end up going to college, starting a business and working for a living, my strongest desire has always been and continues to be motherhood.

 Motherhood is sacred.

It’s scary, beautiful, crazy, hard, inspiring, comforting, confusing, funny. One day you can weep at your humble role and the next you can soar with pride. Motherhood is a risk and a revelation.

I clearly remember being pregnant with my first child, my son Riley.

I kept a daily journal, which mostly consisted of entries that went something like this:

“I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to hold you.” I wrote this over and over again for months. I sang to him, read to him and assured him how much he would be loved. He was a difficult birth (nothing a few drops of Pitocin couldn’t help along) and a curious baby. It seemed as though he was always watching, observing and learning. He could spend hours on the floor watching a ceiling fan circulate as if trying to figure out how it worked.

He excelled in school, followed the rules closely and tried every sport known to man.
He now work outs regularly and his competitive nature comes alive with any video or board game. He was never the most popular, but always had a close group of friends. He played several musical instruments, and has settled down with the acoustic guitar. He starred in school plays, hated wearing jeans but wore his heart on his sleeve.

As a toddler he would sneak out of bed in the middle of the night and startle me as he stood by my bed and cried for more cookies! “I need cookies!” he would yell. To do this day he can devour an enormous amount of cookies.

He is now a senior in college studying Electrical Engineering (I assume early exposure to ceiling fans resonated with him) but still finds time to indulge in his creative side. He is engaged to his best friend. Although the wedding is a few years off, he is committed and devoted to his bride-to-be.

I see him now and he is polite, confident and opinionated.  I am proud of the young man he has become, but confused at how quickly the years have passed. I marvel at his intelligence, chuckle at his sense of humor and cringe at his sometimes-quick temper.

Mostly, I simply love him. I’ve had some difficulty accepting that I am no longer the main lady in his life. But I am his mom, and always will be.

Karly is my second child. She is wedged in the middle of two boys and is my only daughter. I had a natural birth with her, meaning no drugs, no painkillers, nothing but a hot shower to take the edge off.  I often think my attitude during her delivery rubbed off on her and her tenacious, insistent spirit is alive and well.

As a baby Karly did not want anyone else to hold her but mom, dad and occasionally a close relative. She could be exhausting. As a toddler she took to habitually sneaking out of bed and quietly watching late night TV with her dad and I. Once discovered, she would put a death grip on any piece of furniture in an attempt to stop us from hauling her back to bed. That determined characteristic continues to be a solid trait to her personality.

At an early age Karly was captivated with animals, art and sports. Out of all of these passions, art is rooted the deepest. She is a sophomore in college majoring in English and Graphic Design. She is incredibly talented in both and I look forward to seeing where these pursuits will take her.

She has caught the travel bug, which ignites both delight and fear in me. Delight for the adventures, the people and the places she will discover. Fear at the thought of her out there navigating alone through this wild and crazy world.

What I absolutely love about having a daughter is the conversations. Our chats consist of everything from the mundane to the extraordinary. They take place on walks, coffee shops, sitting on the sofa and via the telephone in the middle of the night.

Karly exudes confidence and direction but at other times crumbles
with uncertainty. She is kind but stubborn. In many ways we’re very similar which has created a wonderful bond, but at times some major head butting.

I am proud of her and feel nothing but mama-bear love.

Quinn is my youngest child and by far the most laid back. He came into this world by means of a relaxed mother (epidural). During labor with Quinn, I read, watched tv and chatted with nurses as he meandered his way into the world.

Almost immediately Quinn slept through the night. He would let anyone hold him. You could even prop him up on the sofa surrounded by pillows and his smile would exude “life is good”.

In his toddler years, Quinn’s relaxed view on life led him on many adventures. He thought nothing of wandering away from home, outings, stores or on walks. Something would catch his eye and off he went. This roaming spirit earned him the nick-name tumbleweed.

On one such occasion our family was visiting a Children’s Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota. After several warnings and threats, Quinn managed to wander away again. This time we couldn’t find him in the crowded five-story building. Concern turned to utter panic. Our family flew though the crowd, searching and yelling his name. Almost an hour later we was in complete hysterics when we found him at the museum’s information desk. I hugged him, I scolded him and I cried. He simply looked at me and said “no problem mama, I found the man in the red vest.”

Quinn is incredibly smart and has a keen memory. He has a knack for remembering the most absurd facts and quotes and retelling them with perfect timing. He’s a writer, an artist, a history buff and a humorist.

He enjoys sports but mostly in a team setting. I figured out later on that it’s the company he enjoys not necessarily the sport itself.

He’s now a senior in high school and has surrounded himself with a positive, fun group of friends. He’s immensely enjoying his senior year and “kind of” preparing for college next fall.

Quinn is the last of the hatchlings. I’m not ready for him to leave the nest.  I need his positive outlook in the house. His jokes, his laughs, his hugs.

He’s a people person and I have no doubt that he will thrive in college in whatever major he pursues. He will soar and surround himself with good people throughout his life. I am proud to be his mother.

Now on the brink of being an empty nester, I question myself. Did I do my best every day? Do they know without a doubt how much I love them? Did the divorce damage them? Will they pick them selves up when they fall? Will they learn to love unconditionally? Will they learn to forgive.

As a parent I feel like our sense of responsibility for our children never ends. It changes. It ebbs and flows. But I need to adapt to having young adults. I need to trust their decision-making, their choices. I need to know that I raised them to fly.

It’s hard to let go when you just want to hold on.


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2 Responses to It’s hard to let go when you just want to hold on

  1. Kurt Nicholson says:


  2. Dad says:

    Excellent Sharyn!! Well done!

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