I am working on letting go, in particular, letting go of my recent college graduate. I’ve spent the better part of 30 years holding him and his siblings tight, taking care of them, guarding them.
Before they were born, I ate right, didn’t drink, took vitamins and anything else that might help ensure they were born healthy.
Once home, I gated the stairs, put safety plugs in electrical outlets, locks on kitchen cabinet and padded sharp corners. I read to them from the moment they were home because I was told it would be beneficial. We never missed a well-baby check-up, dealt with illnesses as they came up and watched to make sure they followed the approved developmental schedule.
All through preschool and later, elementary and middle school, I encouraged, supported, and expected learning. I wouldn’t say I hovered, but I definitely mothered. Hugs were given, science fair boards were purchased and attention was paid to all the important stuff in between.
Time whips by (to that first-time mother exhausted by her two year old: Its really true. They grow so fast!). They learn to drive and you have to let them go places without you. Having watched and mourned with families who lost a teen in a car accident, this can be terrifying. How many of us would follow behind, if they could, just to ensure their safety. And when you’re not worried about their physical safety, their hearts are also at great risk as they explore their romantic life and sexuality.
College provides an opportunity for your child to learn independence with a safety net. They learn to live in an apartment but you’re paying the rent; that kind of thing. They move into their twenties and they do mature. Then before you know it, they’ve graduated.
It really is time to let go at that point. Sure there’s so much we can tell them to make their transition easier. But they are adults and can manage their way through society in the same bumpy manner that we did. Some of us, me included, find it very hard to step back sometimes. I know my husband has had the same problem with our latest to leave the nest. He has so much to share and, in a not-disrespectfully way, my son says, “I’ve got it, Dad.” It’s hard not to take it personally but we’ve got to understand that there’s pride in coping with his new town, his new job and his new life.
My father recently said to me, “Will you take the advice of an 85 year old man?” I said that I offered a lot of advice from my never-you-mind-how-many years and no one was interested so I’d surely accept his. He said, “Step back. Let him be. It’ll work out.” Easier said than done but I’m trying.
I wonder, in this graduation season, how many other families are feeling the tension between loving and protecting at a time when the protection is far less needed or wanted. In letting go, don’t we show we did a good job, and doesn’t it allow the relationship to mature? After all, we had to quit holding their fingers so they could walk alone and we had to take our hands off the bicycle to see if they could balance by themselves. And we celebrated each milestone. This letting go is just one more milestone to celebrate. Have you faced this in your family yet? How did you handle your child’s need for independence? Share what worked for you.