At every step along the way of our children’s development, we are preparing to ultimately lead them out into the world as competent adults. When they are babies, we are often on the phone telling grandparents or friends that our precious one smiled, rolled over, said “no”, or even took some steps alone. How thrilling are all these milestones that happen right under our roofs, right under our noses! Eventually there is a milestone that makes you realize that they won’t always be under the umbrella of your protection.
Preschool or kindergarten creates a period of time that allows your child to work on their development apart from you. Many a parent has walked away from that first drop-off, gone to the car and had a good cry, while junior went right inside to participate, or like Mom/Dad, had a good cry, and then joined in later. Those feelings are natural, because after all, you have hardly been apart from your child. But it is a threshold they need to cross to learn how to be away from you for short periods of time.
In first grade, parents take a small step back while children spend the whole day with peers and teachers learning in many different ways. In high school they want to be with friends and we need to make sure that they are surrounded by “the village” in order that they don’t get secluded. In college they leave again and learn how to live with others, and get along in the world by themselves. Most young people suffer a little, or a lot, of homesickness when they first leave home, and they learn how to eventually deal with it. Some parents miss their children terribly but know it is imperative to let them struggle and fall a few times on the way in order for their children to achieve confidence in knowing how to help themselves.
I remember a few milestones in my first child’s life that struck a little fear in my heart. The first time he wanted to ride his bike off our street it seemed like he was gone infinitely long! Later when he got his drivers’ license, I felt that his protection was in the arms of the angels. We had taught him to drive well and to be responsible, and that was all we could do. One can’t worry endlessly, so we relaxed most of the time, awakening at night, though, as he returned from his dates, and fell back to sleep soundly when everyone was safe at home.
My children are all grown now; my son is 35 and my girls are 24 and 25. None of them live at home. It has been amazing to watch their growth and development. My son is like a good friend; his perception on things is invaluable to me. My 25 year old daughter is quite independent. She is maturing rapidly, replying the other day about a situation that last year would have upset her, saying “It is what it is.” My youngest, in her last semester of graduate school, is paying her way with an internship. She may live with us when she returns to town for a while until she finds a job and an apartment. They are pretty grown, so what is the “empty nest” about that I am learning how to navigate?
I am not experiencing any problems with my children. They are all wonderful people, doing what they do, and being responsible. The problem is with myself. How does one turn off being the parts of “mother” that young adults no longer need. All three of my children have their own way of telling me when they don’t need my advice. My oldest just ignores it, but once in a while, in a very calm way, let’s me know that it is not necessary to inform him of how to stay warm, or where to go on vacation. My second child just laughs and when I ask if I can help her with something, always says, “No.” When she was delirious with fever this year, I was so happy to go over and bring her soup and glasses of water. I couldn’t help it if I had to straighten up the house a bit, could I? My youngest just says, “Busted!” which means that I had better stop being bossy while she still finds it amusing.
I am very happy in my life and find myriad ways to spend my time since my retirement but I thought that I would be helping out my children a bit more. My husband and I are so happy to find out that they don’t need our help. As children, year after year they took on more responsibility, until now when they are confident in their decision-making skills. We are very proud parents and I am continually having to remember to put on the brakes when I am about to “teach” them something. So my point is that we never stop wanting to “help” our children and must learn to just stand back and admire their achievements and be there as advisors if they come to us. All of my young friends tell me that they will need us “a lot” when they have children of their own.
So as you hold your baby tenderly, go to your child’s class play, or attend their 8th grade continuation, enjoy each moment that you are together. When your child learns to say “no” as a toddler, kicks and screams as a child, or blames you for “ruining my life” as a teen, know that they need to push back against you to learn how to individuate and become their own person. They need to do a lot of figuring out how to solve their own problems. Soon they will be grown and gone and you will know that you have done your job well.
Remember that perfectionism has no place in parenting. We are constantly learning how to parent. Look at me, one who teaches Simplicity Parenting, continually learning how to adjust my parenting style to the needs of my grown children. Parenting is really an art that we need to practice to learn how to do well.
In Simplicity Parenting, it is said that when our children are under 7, parents are the King and the Queen providing everything for our children. When our children are in the grades, up to age 14, we are the Farmers or the Gardeners planting seeds, and feeding and watering the soil. When our children are 14-21, we are the Shepherds or Guides for our children. They can take on a lot but still need our guidance. And when our children are 21-28, we are the Advisors, on hand when they need our wisdom. My two daughters occasionally run ideas by me to see what I think. In the meantime, I realize what it is that I need to be doing – just living my life, peacefully, simply, and with love. Like one of my friends likes to say, “The Kids are All Right!”
SIMPLICITY PARENTING CLASSES IN DENVER ARE STARTING JANUARY 14/15!!
Call me, Colette Green, 720-936-5437, if you would like to join our groups. Download the brochure above, under Simplicity Parenting, to find out more.