My teenage daughter has a birthday coming up. While looking through old photographs, I came across one with a big gap-toothed grin that almost wrecked me. There is something about gaps in a kid’s smile that tugs at my heart. A gap that will be filled with a tooth slightly too big for their five-year-old face. Adult teeth look so funny on a little kid and it takes years to grow into them.
I remember snooping through my parent’s drawers as a kid and finding a few baby teeth. These old teeth both fascinated and disgusted me. One person I know took it one step further and saved her baby’s umbilical cord. Cords are smelly and scabby and I couldn’t wait for my own babies to lose theirs and have it replaced with perfect little outie belly buttons.
It’s Hard Letting Go
I do, however, understand the concept of holding on to things that should have long been let go. Like baby teeth and things that tether us, we are meant to lose them so that we can grow.
New teeth and new ties.
Like my daughter, I love to grow but I struggle to let go. When my kids were young they’d ask me almost weekly to measure them against the door frame. I have sharpie marks to show their progress, but occasionally struggle to show my own. In the summer I read almost a book a day. My brain grows, but mysteriously my pants seem to shrink. When she was young, my daughter would wake me up crying, saying that her legs hurt. I rubbed them, begged her to get back to sleep and just told her that it meant she was growing.
And that sometimes growing hurts. I often need that same reminder in the middle of the night. I wish my own growth was as simple to see snaking up the doorframe.
Growing Means Some Things No Longer Fit You
Fall is approaching and I have finally gotten around to cleaning out closets. Thankfully my children do not outgrow all their clothes as quickly as they did a few years ago. Still , the shorts and swimsuits my kids have worn this season will not fit again next summer so I add them to the give-away pile. My son hardly notices, but my daughter pulls out some of her favorite items saying that she loves a particular outfit it and that I can NOT give away her favorite dress. I tell her that the only way she can wear that dress now is as a shirt.
Sometimes growing means letting go of the things that used to fit you, but don’t anymore. As far as I know I have never woken up with aching legs. The only kind of growing pains I remember starred Kirk Cameron, but I know the kind that feel more like an ache in your chest or a fear so big you have to remind yourself to breathe.
I cleaned out my own closet this week as well and it is the same but for different reasons. Things that used to fit, but don’t. I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I will likely never ever fit into those jeans again and it is time to let them go.
Of course, it isn’t just my pants. There are people and habits that don’t fit anymore that I have held on to for far too long. Things I keep holding on to because they are easy and comfortable and I somehow convinced myself that it was a part of me; that these less-than-flattering traits were just who I am, not something I need to yank out and toss.
Like baby teeth and things that tether us, we are meant to lose them so that we can grow
This is partly because I don’t have the patience to work at it or I worry a bit about the gap that they will leave. Habits and unhealthy relationships, like teeth, are rarely easily lost. Like my daughter’s baby teeth and her aching legs, growth usually hurts, takes work and can leave a bit of an empty space until something more mature takes its place.
Looking back at pictures of my daughter has reminded how quickly she grew into her smile. She just got her braces off. She generally changes her mind about style or wears out clothing before outgrowing them. She has not woken me up with physical growing pains in almost a decade. Yet, I only need to glance at the Sharpie marks on my doorframe or old photographs to remember that we are meant to grow. It is a reminder then and now to do the same.
That it is ok to lose some things.
To do the work.
To let go.
To clean out more than just my closet.
One thing that can hold us back from growth is when we’re still clinging onto the past. Here’s how to let it go: How Do I Begin to Heal from Past Emotional Hurt? with Elizabeth Bristol -186