Letting Go, Part 1 (and a book update)

I’ll be taking a few shortcuts in my blog now and again while I write the book. This includes posting things I’ve written years ago that have nothing, really, to do with weight loss. But the one thing I’ve learned about losing weight after all these years of trying and trying is that our lives aren’t put on hold just because we decide to drop some pounds. The hours and days still pass, and to lose weight and maintain it successfully, we have to incorporate our ambitions and dedication with the ordinary everyday stuff.

I’m 46 and am just figuring this out.

Anyway, here’s the update on the book: The proposal is soon complete. Once all the revisions are complete (which is what I’m working on now) and on my agent’s desk, she will send it out to publishers. IF a publisher buys it, then I will write the rest of the book. So don’t be looking for anything on Amazon for a while. I’ve really appreciated your support through this process. Trust me, you’ll be the first (well, third after my husband and kids) to know when and if I have a book deal. Here’s hoping for the positive.

But back to the latest shortcut. My daughter Cassie, mother to my grandbabies, joined the Army Reserves shortly after 9-11 when she was 16 years old and a junior in high school. She needed my permission, and signing the papers was one of the hardest decisions I’d ever made. Here’s what I wrote back in Dec. 2001 about the process. Part 2 will be told from Cassie’s perspective.

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I’m being weaned, figuratively, from my children by my children. At 17 and 18, Cassie and Carlene don’t need me for many things anymore except maybe to buy face wash, body lotion or tampons. Then it’s not really me they need but my Visa card.

From the minute they were born, I’ve been letting go. I let them go with the nurses to be cleaned, weighed and measured. I let them go on the bus to their first day of kindergarten. I let them go to birthday parties, sleep-overs, field trips, to the mall alone with their friends. I’ve even let them go on dates with boys I didn’t like, not because I trusted the boys, but because I trusted my girls. And trust is at the heart of letting go.

For Carlene her letting go of me was harder for her than me letting go of her. She hated day care, she wanted her first-grade teacher to call me after a thunderstorm, and she usually sat on my lap when strangers or people she hadn’t seen in awhile were in the room. As she got older, Carlene grew a strong backbone, and combined with her level-headedness, she’s turned into a strong young woman, even though I still buy her razors and shampoo.

On the opposite end of parenting is Cassie. Our letting go experiences have been of her pushing me rather than me pushing her. She had no problem disappearing into clothes racks when she was 2 while we were out shopping, leaving me frantic looking for her. She couldn’t wait to go to school and loved it when I hired a babysitter if I went out. I always knew she needed me in some esoteric way, but she hasn’t given up the secret of why.

She’s done some fast talking and gentle pushing lately to help me face the hardest letting go of her yet. Last Tuesday I signed a consent form allowing Cassie to join the Army Reserves. She made this decision before Sept. 11 and I was mostly OK with it since she could finish high school without interruption and go to college while doing her military work. Then as I watched the World Trade Centers collapse and the Pentagon on fire, I decided there was no way in hell I was going to let her join anything that might put her in the middle of whatever was coming.

But when she came home from school that day, she was more determined than ever to sign up.

I knew that given my fear, the control freak I’m known to be could refuse to let her join and make her wait until she was 18 and no longer needed my permission. But I’ve spent 17 years reigning in this child. To hold her back might break her.

After all, this is a girl who, when she was 3, thought she could stick a penny in an outlet like it was a vending machine. When the lights flickered, I heard a “snap” and felt a bump on the floor. I ran in to her room and there she was blinking and stunned, and a penny bent and burned near the outlet. I didn’t punish her. I figured the electric shock that sent her flying two feet from the wall was lesson enough.

This is the same girl who, when she was 7, decided to visit her 80-year-old friend for five hours without telling me where she was. How do you get mad at someone who’s doing a good thing, but who didn’t follow the rules? Just as control defined me, dichotomy defined Cass.

I read the consent form. It was perfectly clear. My signature meant I understood Cassie might be put in dangerous, life-threatening situations should her reserve unit be activated. It meant I promised not to sue the government if something happened to her while in their care like a broken leg, loss of eyesight, or death. This form made the paper I signed so she could get her belly button pierced seem like a sales slip for lipstick. I was granting permission for the government I live under and pay taxes to, to use my child in the country’s best interests. God, the government had better appreciate her.

She’ll go to basic training this summer, a complete letting go if there ever was. If she screws up it won’t be me talking to her about her mistake or grounding her for a night. She’ll have a drill sergeant in her face calling her names and screaming at her to do 50 pushups. Instead of her favorite mashed potatoes with cream cheese and sour cream and Italian chicken drizzled in butter, she’ll be eating chipped beef on toast. Instead of sleeping in on warm summer mornings, she’ll be up at 4 a.m., running, learning to shoot an M16, and throwing grenades. They’ll even put her in a gas chamber. “Cool,” she said.

So, I signed it. She’ll come home a soldier. A lean, mean fightin’ machine. But she’ll still be my little girl and she’ll still need me. And my Visa card.

I’m being weaned. Weaned from directing and controlling my girls’ destinies. But you know something? When I look at them, when I think of all we’ve been through, I smile like a Cheshire cat and think, ‘Damn, I’ve done a good job.’

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