Releasing my daughter to Outdoor School

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Raise and Release

by Elisha Joyce
Rebel Grain Inc founder, Portland
Rebel Grain blog

Yesterday my little girl left for outdoor school.  She is 11. She is in 6th grade. She is confident, charming, responsible, hilarious, talented, determined… and I am sure the next four days she will have the time of her life.

The place she is at is beautiful. It’s buried back in the woods with rustic cabins, open fields, a large stream – and she is surrounded by all the kids she’s basically grown up with. This is the 7th year 90% of the kids have been classmates and friends. As I walked the bus isle on the way to the camp (I was one of the bus chaperones), I could still see their kindergarten grins through the preteen laughs. Their bodies give the impression they have matured, but I could see the truth: they are still our babies.

I had a hard time releasing her into the woods by herself.

While I doted on her and made sure I documented her every check-in step with my camera, a little bit of me broke to see how self-sufficient she really was. She needed her friends more than she needed my hand; her comfort came from her place in her group, and not from her place in my arms.

I watched as an outsider as she laughed at inside jokes with her best friends – little girls that, thankfully, I love, love, love – and I realized: and so begins her journey into the world.

I’ve always thought that college would be when we ‘set her free’ and pray we’ve given her the tools to shine forth. How naïve.

What yesterday made me realize is that the letting go happens each and every day – one moment at a time.

I must raise… and release.

Raise… and release.

Raise… and release.

Yes, now that I’m thinking about this so deeply I know that I’ve been releasing for some time now. I released when I left her screaming in the church nursery. I released when someone babysat her for the first time. I released when she went to the first day of preschool – of kindergarten – of day camp. I released on her first sleepover, and continue to release every time she spends a night away from me; and, I release every time she walks confidently onto the soccer field to battle with her team.

Every day I raise and release.

It’s crazy, because it seems like yesterday she was crying through the church nursery window as I stood outside praying, “Oh Lord, let her be strong… and may she have fun, and make friends, and learn to be confident away from me!”

And yesterday – yesterday, as I realized the power of my answered prayer, I was the one who stood crying as my little girl walked away and glanced back to speak to me with her eyes and sweet smile saying, “Mom, it’s okay. I love you – and I’m going to be just fine. I promise.”

Raise… and release. One moment at a time. yet now, with a more simple prayer: Father, as I raise and release, may she always walk on Your path.