When you first hold your baby there’s a multitude of feelings that flow through you – exhaustion, love, awe, a tremendous sense of responsibility, even fear.
What no one can prepare you for is when you have to start letting go, loosening the apron strings, so your kids can grow up and become adults, responsible for their own lives. It seems to happen in an instant, overnight.
It’s not as if they turn 18 and suddenly BAM! that’s it, bye bye parents. It’s a gradual letting go.
But it’s hard. You need to give the kids space to learn, opportunities to grow from, the ability to make mistakes that they can learn from. Ima cannot come rushing in to save the day every single time. You learn to bite your tongue, to accept decisions that you might not fully agree with. But how can we trust our children if we don’t give them the opportunity to be trusted?
This balancing act seems to become harder the older the children get. I am not a dictatorial mother, but I am a mom who likes things done a certain way and expects her children to behave appropriately. However, I have to have faith in the job I have done in raising the kids. They are not an extension of me, they are themselves, people in their own right. Children deserve a chance to figure out WHO they are. As parents we need to be there to support them, to love them unconditionally, to be a voice of reason when necessary. As the kids get older, they need you in different ways.
It’s so rewarding watching them grow up and mature, yet bittersweet in a way – they will soon leave home, headed to live their own lives. It’s what we want for them but it’s so hard to let go.
“Letting go” is a misleading term. Your relationship with your 18 year old will not become more distant; it will just become… different. My 18 year old son and I are as close as we have always been, but the tone has changed. Instead of telling him what to do, I try to provide the encouragement and guidance that he needs to help him reach his own decisions. In a way, it’s a relief to have that burden lifted off my shoulders a bit. And I am so proud of the man that he is becoming. Like every other stage that our kids go through, it takes some adjustment. But they don’t really need us any less.
> It’s not as if they turn 18 and suddenly BAM!
Yeah? That’s what it felt like when I sent my oldest off to Grade 9 a few weeks ago. Hadn’t nursery just been the other day?
You have to let them go in order to keep them