When your kids start to grow up, I mean really grow up, and they leave and discover and experience new things, people always say things like, “It’s going to be great! You need to let go,” or “She’s going to be moving away soon anyway; this is good practice. She needs to fly.”
In addition to deciding people tend to repeat phrases they have heard others say (no matter how meaningless and unhelpful they are), I also realized loosening my grip isn’t the same as letting go.
Letting go means I suddenly button my lips when they ask for advice or even when they don’t, and they sorely need some input. It means they go from fully depending on me to getting nothing from me in return.
Letting go means I have decided my job as parent is finished.
There’s no finish.
I know this part to be true because of the many times I call my own mother for advice and vent sessions, and because I know she will redirect me back to truth and away from what my fickle emotions are trying to convince me.
I have also decided parents tend to be extremists. Because on the opposite side of letting go is enabling. Did you know there are naughty 8 letter words? Well, this one comes across as a swear in parenting circles. Letting go means I swoop in and make up for what they have done. I apologize, I talk to bosses, I argue with teachers even when they are right, I clean my kids’ rooms because they keep “forgetting”, or I take out loans I can’t afford because of their debt.
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t do it. I won’t let go; I will loosen my grip a little at a time until they can stand on their own. Or fly or whatever else cliche there is. Loosening my grip means I allow my kids to reap the benefits as well as the consequences of their choices. Loosening means their boundaries are bigger, but there are still boundaries. Loosening means there will be options I don’t agree with, but rather than taking away that option, I will stand by my kid when they unwisely choose it. Then I will work with them through the consequences, so they choose differently next time. Loosening means that, when they argue with their spouse and come home at midnight, I hug them and send them home. Loosening means something different than letting go.
I have three (mostly) teens. One is almost 12, another almost 13, and the big one is almost 16. I sense my time is limited with them, so I intend to be purposeful. And, my little ones, seven and nine, I have already begun loosening with them. I have no idea what I am doing with any them from day to day, but so far they are likeable creatures, so I am going to keep chugging in this direction. After all, 18 Christmases. That’s it. From start to finish that’s all I get.