Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Letting Go of Family Stories

Family stories.  We all have them.  We tell them over and over and laugh or sigh.  We especially love telling stories on others.  The story about how Uncle Charlie fell asleep in church and started snoring, or the time the kids sneaked out of the house without the parents ever knowing.  But there are other stories.  Family stories that are told that describe a person we are no longer.  The bad sheep stories and the shy child stories are the stories that evolved over time to usually help to explain behaviors or help others cope with behaviors in the family that were unexpected or unwanted.  These stories can stay in a family for a long time, or they can slowly be replaced by new stories.  Sometimes the person who is the subject of the story begins to let the stories define who they are today.  They give the story too much power in their lives.  It is usually in the growing up process, that we begin to let go of those stories which no longer describe who we really are or who we have become.

My family is currently in a transition phase of story-telling.  My kids are now old enough to tell the stories, or ask for stories to be told.  Well, truthfully, they are in the eye-rolling stage of "not that story again, mom".  Although secretly, I know they love hearing the stories.  This is not the only change.  My husband is changing his story.  He is no longer a pastor, which means my story has changed as well.  I am no longer a preacher's wife.  He is in a place of figuring out the new story, he is not sure of what it is or will be.  This brings anxiety as well as extreme excitement about what will be.  I look forward to this story and what it will be about.

But another member of our family is changing his story as well.  My son is graduating from high school. He will no longer be living at home and will be encountering new ways to live his life.  As he and we, as his parents, begin to contemplate this new story, we can't help but look back over the story to this point.  I find myself looking in the scrapbooks and rereading the antidotes alongside the photos.  As I do this, I wonder which of these stories will he add onto and which of these will no longer be true.  Will he still have a passion for baseball and will he find a way to have baseball be a part of his life?  Will he still be the sensitive and kind person he is today?  There is one story that has changed and that I as his mother have a hard time letting go.  This story plays in my head unbidden.  It is the story of his birth and the joy at finally having a child.  Plus his first year of life and almost losing him three times.  Holding a baby in your arms and watching them struggle to live leaves an indelible mark on your heart. The truth is, he is no longer that baby who is sick.  In fact, he is a strong, strapping young man.  The picture of health.  Yet to this day when we go to the dr., I hold my breath waiting for the bad news.  It is time that this story stop defining him and my fears for  him.  He is about to set out on his own and he is more than capable to care for himself.  He doesn't need me hovering over him.  He won't end up in the hospital because of a cold.

The funny thing about this story is that it was only true for one year out of the seventeen years he has been alive.  Yet the story so changed my life, that I cling to it.  I have given the story so much power that I still fear for his life.

It is time to let go.  It is time to put that story where it belongs, in the past.  It is part of his story and mine.  But it does not in anyway define who he is today.  So I need to let it go, and trust that he will be okay.

What stories does your family have?

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