Parenting is the only job where you’re actually supposed to be fired after 18 years of hard work and dedication, and we all know that going in. That doesn’t make letting go any easier. In fact, I daresay it’s the hardest part of raising kids. Let’s discuss!
Letting Go is the Hardest Part of Raising Kids
From the moment our babies roll over for the first time, it feels like they’re constantly moving away from us. As Deborah Mitchell once said, “As a parent, you quickly realize that life is one long series of letting go: watching your kid crawl, then walk, then run, and then drive away.”
We all KNOW that letting go is a big part of this whole parenting job. That doesn’t make it any easier, though! And it’s not even something that we can do just once. You can’t just “rip off the band-aid” and be done with it. It’s something we do over and over and over again.
Every “first” that our kids have requires us to let them go and fly on their own in some way. First steps, the first day of school, first time driving on their own, first date, first love, first apartment. Heck, even the first time they choose their own outfit requires some form of letting go (at the very least, you have to let go of the notion that clothes should match!).
No matter how many times we let go, it still takes our breath away
You would think that with the number of times we let go over the years, we’d get used to it. Yet every single time, it fills us with such an overwhelming sense of nostalgia that it practically knocks the breath right out of us.
Case in point, I called my friend up the other day and I could tell by her voice that she was crying. I knew her son had a physical that day. So, I asked her what was wrong, fearing that the answer would be something horrible. Her breath hitching, she said, “He needed a shot. As I was signing the consent form, I realized that this was the very last time I would ever need to do that. He’ll be 18 at his next physical!”
She said spent hours looking at baby pictures and crying over how fast her son grew up. Because nostalgia is contagious, that led to ME flipping through old pictures and lamenting over how fast MY kids are growing.
Why is letting go so hard?
Later on, once the tears dried up (for now), I realized why letting go is the hardest part of raising kids. It’s not so much the act itself, but all of the conflicting emotions that accompany it. Think about it. We feel:
- Fear, anxiety, and worry. Is it the right time to let go? Will our kids be okay out there in the big (and sometimes, bad) world? What if something happens?
- Pride, both for them and ourselves. We’re so proud of them for getting to the point where they can do this (whatever “this” may be) on their own, and of US for doing such a good job getting them there.
- Awe. It takes courage on their part to step out from under our protective shadow and spread their wings to fly, and that is the very definition of “awesome.”
- Excitement! We can’t wait to see what they’ll do with their freedom and who they’ll become on their own!
- Sadness. Each step they take on their own is a step that they’re taking away from us.
Finally, the nostalgia sets in, which is when we find ourselves staring at baby pictures wishing we could go back in time. Not to change anything, but just to relive those magical moments when our babies still needed us wholly and completely.
We need to let them go so they can realize their potential
“Letting go does not mean abandoning your child. It means allowing your child to learn responsibility and to feel capable.” I don’t know who said that, but it’s something we all need to hear as parents.
Every child deserves to feel like they can do anything and be anyone. When you let go, you’re telling them that you believe in them. You’re saying, “I know you’ve got this!” You’re not only letting them know that they’re capable of great potential, but also that it’s THEIR responsibility to realize that potential.
Just because you let them go doesn’t mean they let you go
There’s a really great quote by Hodding Carter, Jr. that says, “There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” If we do this whole parenting thing right, we never truly let go of our kids because we ARE those roots. We’re always with them, always a part of them, no matter how far away their wings may take them.
I’ll leave you with one last quote. Kevin Heath wrote, “As your kids grow, they may forget what you said, but won’t forget how you made them feel.” We only have so many years to instill in our kids all of the values that matter most in this world, and they go by so fast. Spend that time making them feel like they can do anything they set their minds to, and they just might change the world. The only way you can do that, though, is by letting go and giving them the chance to show you just how high they can fly.