The bond between parent and child is incredibly powerful. We often hear parents express that they would “fight a grizzly bear” for their child. Parents often tell their children that there is nothing they can do to lose the love that they feel for them. For most parents, these things are true. However, part of a parent’s job is to…let go.
We begin letting go of our children from the time they are born. We do not stand over them throughout the night while they sleep. We encourage them to roll over, sit up, stand and take those first steps without our aid. It is so very exciting…and for the most part, non-threatening to our role as parent. But there are the first sleepovers, learning to ride a bike, the first day of school – and these things bring with them a realization that we will not always be with our children as they move through life. We cannot always be with them to help them make their decisions. Yet still, we are able to cope.
First dates, driver’s licenses, and first jobs brings another form of realization. The child that you have nurtured for so many years is now becoming a young adult, who will make decisions of their own, hopefully considering the advice you have been proffering over the years, and you will not always be available when they make these decisions. Your role as parent becomes a bit more frightening as you are forced to let go.
My daughter just got her driver’s license. Until now, I have driven in the car beside her. I recognize that I have control issues. Regardless of how untrue it may be, I believe that if I am in the passenger seat beside her, I can deter any possible accident that might present itself. Just my presence gives me a sense of control. I know, deep in my mind, that it is only a semblance of control – not real control. Nonetheless, it makes me feel just a little bit safer. This, however, is not my daughter’s concern now that the state has informed her that it is legal for her to get in the car alone and make her way to her travel destination. I reluctantly hand over the keys to my smiling daughter (who is smiling because she knows that my insides are in turmoil!) and silently pray the entire time she is gone. I think ridiculous notions – like, I don’t want her to drive when I am not home, because I have to be “reachable” should she need me – in an effort to regain control of my life, that is spinning beyond my reach in my daughter’s hands.
And this is only the beginning. Next year, when she graduates, she will be going off to college. As close as we are, she has not selected one single school that is in our state. She wants to be a music major and she has selected only very serious music schools – taking her relatively far away from home. (The closest is six hours away; the farthest is twelve.) There are so many thoughts that fill my mind – What sort of influence will her room mate be? Will all this freedom go to her head, causing her to make choices she would not normally make? What if she meets someone who takes advantage of her? What is she needs me and I can’t be there “immediately”? (This one almost makes me believe that I am a “bad” mother for letting her go so far away.) And yet, I have to let go.
All of these irrational thoughts – and I admit that they are – cloud my mind and my better judgment. I know what I have taught my daughter. I am aware of the moral choices she has made for herself. While I do not have control over what others do, I do know my own daughter and her character. She will not be easily led from her own beliefs. She is a strong young woman with dreams and goals, who expects much from herself and from others. My fears, for the most part, are ungrounded. I have raised her well and should take pride in watching her move out into the world and live her life.
Early this spring, we had a next of house wrens under our carport. When they hatched out and only had their “fuzzies” (what we call their first feathers), they were completely dependent upon their mom for everything. Every little noise would cause them to raise their heads and open their mouths, for they thought their mother was there with more nourishment for them. They knew she would not abandon them and they expected her to be there when they needed her. Over the course of a few weeks (isn’t it amazing how quickly this takes place with animals!) they shed their “fuzzies” and grew new, sleek, smooth feathers. They began to take on personas of their own. One of these little babies was obviously very independent. He would sit on the edge of the nest while their mother was out looking for food and stare after her. Once in a while he would look back at his siblings, comfortably snuggled in the nest, not taking any chances, as if to say, “I am going to follow her one day. Just wait and see. I will fly, too!” The other two were not as eager. In fact, when they finally did fly, one of them stayed in the nest a full day longer than the other two. He was reluctant to give up his comfort.
Some of our children will be highly independent and eager to strike out on their own. Others will need a little more patience and encouragement before they gain the confidence to take their own path. Many will find a middle course. Whichever they are, they will not forget all that we have taught them over the course of their life thus far. Even when we feel as if the control has been taken from our hands, our influence hasn’t. We have been instilling our thoughts, our values, and our ideas in their minds from the time of their birth. We must remind ourselves that these ideas do not evaporate when our children become “grown.” These ideas will influence them for the rest of their lives. Rest comfortably in what you have taught your children and know that even when you are not near them, they can hear your voice.
A final word of advice, if you are still having trouble “letting go”, possibly because you don’t feel you have finished sharing your advice yet. It is never too late to let your children know how you think about any particular subject. Yes, it is always good to impart all of your wisdom while their minds are young and pliable; however, even as young adults (or grown adults), it is not too late to guide them without your wisdom. I know that my mother still does to this day!
Letting go is not the end of a relationship or the destruction of a bond – it is the reaping of rewards for all that you have instilled in your child through the joy of watching them accomplish them own goals.