Dragon Fruit and Letting Go
by Cara Luecht
I used to be a planner. I used to work hard for order, for cleanliness, for predictability. And while I still appreciate a well-run day, I must admit, I no longer meet my own standards. I guess four kids wears away at the illusion of perfection.
And I’m okay with that.
We have a plant growing in a tiny pot in a tiny window over the stairway between the first and second floors of our house. I have no idea what it is.
Our youngest purchased the bit of a plant at Disney World as a souvenir. It was a cutting from their laboratory, and it sat sealed in a clear jar with about a half inch of an agar-type substance in the bottom. As the instructions demanded, we kept the jar closed (for more than the year suggested), and watched it swell with only the power of sunlight and the good vibes my daughter gave it every morning when she picked it up and I reminded her to put it back before she broke the thing.
She didn’t break it, and the bit of a plant soon became too much for the miniscule jar. So, we looked up the directions for how to acclimate the thing to real air and did as we were told. I placed it in dirt (with the help of a tweezers—no joke), and now this alien looking creature sits on the window sill.
I could look it up, and at some point I likely will. But right now, like most folks, I’m too busy to put the bulbous, spikey plant on my list of major concerns. And that’s okay because it is thriving.
Boy, is it thriving.
I haven’t tracked it closely, but the growth rate is somewhere between Jumanji and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Right now, I think it’s the healthiest thing in the house. I must admit, that giving it that designation, in the face of my plant-parent negligence and willful ignorance, is humbling.
My kids are getting older. My youngest is entering the teen years, my oldest is thriving in college, and it is not lost on me that in the light of the latest fashion trend to wear mismatched socks (this makes me crazy), my years of making sure everything was always put together in a neat little package might have been less necessary to their survival than I might like to give myself credit for.
The truth is, they have done and will continue to do just fine.
They might make mistakes. And as they grow, and in some ways become strangers to me, it is my turn to sit back and come to terms with the knowledge that it doesn’t take my continued influence to turn them into functioning humans. God does that part.
That’s not all He does, though. My two oldest, now in college, have become people who are so much more than I could have ever imagined. They love humanity, they accomplish amazing things, and they have more abilities than I could have crafted for them even if I had had that kind of power. If I could have controlled, cajoled, and created my own little robots, they wouldn’t have come close to the people God had planned from the beginning.
That dragon plant, with its unfriendly looking spines and bright green flesh, will be what it will be. I can pick the perfect kind of fertilizer, or water it the perfect amount, but just like my journey as a parent, I will probably make mistakes. One week I might water it twice, the next it will be ignored and panting for rain. But despite my mistakes, despite the fact that I really don’t know how to care for this strange thing, and despite the potential satisfaction in thinking that my meager influence would grow a better plant, the plant will grow as it grows.
Letting go of our children as they get older is more than simply letting go. It is coming to terms with the reality that they are better off for our letting go. That what God has planned for them is far beyond what we could imagine. They are equipped. The years in the glass jar, the years of insulation and watching and worry have done what they should. They are prepared to grow on their own.
And they will do so, even if the mismatched socks persist.
Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. In addition to freelance writing and marketing, Cara works as an English Instructor for a local college. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.
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