Growing Up and Letting Go

kids on a gravel road


My son turned sixteen earlier this month.

My son, who not that long ago was sitting on the floor playing with Thomas the Tank Engine, is now old enough to drive.

That is a scary thought.  The kid who frequently doesn't seem completely sure who his body belongs to and where those huge feet came from is old enough to be put in charge of a huge hunk of moving metal and allowed on the road.

Excuse me while I go lie down for a minute.

My son tells us that he thinks getting his license is practical because then he can get a job during shop cycle at school and that will be good work experience.  I listen to my son being practical and reasonable and I nod in agreement, ignore my inner weeping for the loss of my baby, and research learner's permit requirements.  Because that is what parents do.  They help their kids to the edge of the nest and shove them over.  Then they sit on the edge of the nest and hope madly that their kid will find his wings.  Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.  Sometimes it takes a few shoves off the edge before they get the hang of it.  However, if you don't shove they may never fly.

I have had to learn to back off and let him try his wings.  When he was younger I had to constantly fight the urge to check that he was getting things done, to make sure he was handling situations appropriately.  We live in a world that tells us that the more involved we are in our children's lives the better parents we are.  Of course we want to be close to our kids.  Of course we want to spend time with them but there is such a thing as too much.  We cannot and should not live for and through our children.  They need to live for themselves, make decisions for themselves, even make mistakes for themselves.

I notice this view of constant parent involvement with my daughter's homework.  She is in sixth grade.  I certainly hope that by now she can keep track of her assignments and remember to do them and hand them in on time.  Those are basic skills that should have been learned in the very early grades. This year's teachers seem to have no faith in the kids' ability to do any of that.  They are given an assignment and they have to write it down in their planners, then the assignment is emailed to all parents, then the child comes home and does the homework and has the parent sign the planner confirming it was done.  Then the child returns the homework and planner to school and the planner is signed by the teacher. The teachers still complain that the parents are not actively involved in their child's homework.  Honestly?  I don't want to be actively involved in her homework.  I have been there, done that, and have no desire to do it again.  I'll help if she is stuck on a math problem or something but other than that her homework should be her responsibility.

If we don't teach our children to be responsible for the little things and take responsibility when they mess up then how are they going to cope as life goes on and and bigger issues face them?  We cannot and should not always be there to maintain a hedge between them and the rest of the world.

It is hard.  I want to go outside and encase our car in a huge roll of bubble wrap just so my son can't be injured.  Do you think that would work?  It might look a bit funny....

It is hard to let go.  It is hard to sit back and watch our children live their lives their way.  It is hard to determine when to provide direction, when to swoop in and help, and when to sit on the edge of the nest and watch.

It is hard, but when they find their wings, when they soar, you feel like you can soar yourself.


6 comments

  1. This is one of the hardest, but most important, lessons/skills that a parent must learn. And it keeps on . . . even when your child is well an adult.

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    1. It is probably a good thing that people don't realize completely that when they decide to have a baby they are taking on a job for life. The job doesn't end when your kid hits 18 or 21 or whatever arbitrary age makes them an adult. You are still there in the background hoping they will fly.

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  2. I completely agree. My eldest 'boy' turned 30 a few months ago (I can still hardly believe it) but I still miss my teenagers and their chatter. Enjoy every phase!

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    1. I know it sounds trite but the time has gone by so quickly. I feel like I will blink and my son will be 30. Every age has its own joys...and irritations!

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  3. My goodness, I nearly laughed when I read about the process of confirming homework and assignments. Seems pretty extreme!

    I kind of get it though. I grew up with the generation obsessed with perfect grades and perfect schools and perfect colleges. The school is trying to "help," in a way -- if every homework is confirmed, the likelihood of getting As is increased, which will then get the kids into better schools and colleges.

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    1. I do understand what the school is trying to do. They want kids to be successful. I just think one of the most important things we can teach our children is how to be responsible and independent.

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