Parenting came on like a hurricane, enveloping me like the first snow of the season and demanding that I blossom into new buds. As I raised my kids, I was constantly looking for ways to teach them the most important lessons life has to offer, striving to help them grow day after day so one day they would be ready and as prepared as a Boy Scout for the world at large.
The Send Off Isn’t Easy
But sending them off is proving to be a much more complex experience for this parent of teenagers than I envisioned when they were squalling newborns. Learning to let go has not been a cut-and-dry thing, where one day I’m packing lunches and folding their socks and the next I’m loading up the hatchback and a road map (er, charged smart phone).
Instead, it’s been a process, a series of baby steps that ultimately have led to the destination called young adulthood. It started small, with my kids asserting their independence by blatantly ignoring me in public. Then they began driving and jockeying for my car keys and a full tank of gas so they can experience the thrill of freedom.
And my path to separation has been similar. I feel the need to take a moment, step back and see that my children no longer require the same level of hand holding that used to be necessary. They don’t need much (if any) unasked for advice.
As They Grow Up, I Need to Let Them Fall Down
But this is so tough for me—seeing the mistake coming at them like a missile, but vowing to look the other way and counting to ten instead of diving in at the last minute to be the hero. While watching my beloved teenagers screw up has been painful, I try to remember the stories about the ridiculous stuff I did in my youth – mistakes that helped me turn a corner and grow up a notch, mistakes that taught me those necessary school-of-hard-knocks lessons. And I remind myself that it’s imperative that I let my kids have that same journey.
I hold the belief that being a loving parent doesn’t mean giving my kids a smooth sailing experience in the ocean of life, but rather it does mean equipping them with common sense, values, and curiosity to live, grow and learn, time and again.