“Letting Go” 6×6, oil on canvas Buy Now

My son’s karate class is structured around a series of mantras which they shout enthusiastically as they complete a set of push ups or front kicks. In yesterday’s class, he passed his belt test and will be advancing to blue. The familiar mantra, “Goals we set, are goals we get,” rang particularly true as I watched his whole face light up with the good news of his success.

He didn’t get the blue belt the first time he tried a few months ago. I wanted so much to step in, and my God, I tried. Practice sessions in our living room were usually disasters– me giving too much information and him becoming easily frustrated. He’s six, I reluctantly remind myself. If my son has taught me anything, it’s that he will not, under any circumstances, be the mini-me I imagined not so much as a possibility but as the objective reality of parenting. That my child would be like me seemed a basic result of universal norms. I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again.

I did not become a mother knowing that it would be a daily exercise in letting go.

In his own time, and with his own unique gifts, his unstoppable spirit, he achieves, he grows, he finds his way. I thought I could (and that I should) mold him into some super-human child. I’ve learned that he has everything he needs to be exactly who he is, and the more I accept it, the more in awe of him I become. He is assertive, brave, big-hearted, abundantly curious.

Last year I set a goal for him of learning to ride a bike without training wheels over the summer. He’s not there yet. While bike riding may be way up there on my list of things that one must do to lead a fulfilling life, his list– long, robust, and ever-growing, doesn’t quite include it yet.

Today’s painting is based on a photograph I took at the Mandeville lakefront several years ago. The photo has a woman in it leading the bike on the sidewalk. At first, I was most interested in her as the subject of the painting, but after a few attempts, I eliminated her all together from the composition. Maybe in my version, she has just let go.