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Letting Go

by Teresa, The CuteKid™ Staff


One of the hardest challenges I think we face as parents is letting our children go. From letting our child take those first steps knowing that they are likely to fall, to sending them off to college. Parenting means letting go.

I haven't sent any children off to college, but I have sent my oldest to kindergarten and my middle child to preschool. As one friend told me you don't want your child clinging to you, crying at the kindergarten door, but it is also hard to watch them walk in without a backward glance.

The first day of kindergarten I drove my son. We walked in and found his desk then went out to the playground. He gave me a quick hug, followed by a "Bye, Mom," and then he was off and running. He didn't even look back. I on the other hand stood and watched him until he turned the corner and was out of sight. I have to admit that a tear slipped down my cheek as I realized that my little boy was growing up. Yet happy that my son was prepared and well adjusted enough to not need me by his side. Especially when I saw a few kindergarteners sobbing, refusing to let go of their parent's hands. I walked over to where the PTA was serving muffins and juice to all the kindergarteners parents and ate my muffin wondering how the time had flown by so fast.

Yet letting go was the best thing that I could do for my son. More and more parents are finding it difficult to let go. Joanne Kates, director of a summer camp in Ontario, remarked on how parents have such a hard time letting go. They often receive daily phone calls from concerned parents who call just to learn that their child is fine. They are "helicopter" parents who constantly hover over their child instead of letting them try it on their own. A "helicopter" parent is a term recently coined to describe parents like Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, describes in her book. She says, "The current trend in parenting is to shield children from emotional or physical discomfort." Parents are so concerned about and busy with protecting their children that "they don’t give them a chance to learn how to maneuver on their own outside home or school." This hovering deprives their children of opportunities to develop character and learn to manage the world on their own.

Wendy Mogel also says that many parents, "Wishing to prepare their children for this unknown territory, they try to armor them with a thick layer of skills by giving them lots of lessons and pressuring them to compete and excel." The result is that many kids have a hard time figuring out what to do. Feeling pressured into a sport or even career that they really aren't interested in doing.

So how do we let our children go? First of all we teach them the best that we can. We give them responsibility at a young age. We compliment them when they have done something right and discipline when they have broken the rules. Then when the time comes we can trust that we have done what we can and taught them well enough that they will make it. Whether it is kindergarten, summer camp, or college. It doesn't mean that your child won't still need you. But let your child initiate the correspondence. I attended all of my son's kindergarten and 1st grade class activities because he asked me too. The one time I told him I wouldn’t make it he cried.

I remember when my mother sent me to college. Being the oldest it was their first experience. They knew that they had prepared me the best they could. But my mother still cried as they drove away leaving me standing behind. I only called a few times that first month and my mother later told me that she was both happy and sad. She was happy that I had adjusted to college life so easily and was having a great time and sad because I didn't seem to miss them more. Yet that is what letting go is all about. After being married for ten years I still talk to my mother at least once a week and call her up for advice.

Letting go isn't easy for parents but it is one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children. The chance for them to learn and grow with out a "helicopter" parent constantly hovering in the background. But we should always realize that parenting means letting go.