I remember when I was holding my oldest daughter’s hands and she was ready to walk. I wanted her to let go…I knew she was ready but she held on to my last finger for dear life. Walking was such a sign of independence. She was going to be great and we were going to do amazing things.
When my kids were little I was the most protective mom. I had to do everything for them and I wanted them in the safe bubble. I didn’t want their feelings to be hurt. I didn’t want them exposed to the harsh realities of the world. I wanted to be that perfect parent so bad. My expectations were so high…unattainably high for me and them.
Through the 15 years that have followed that moment when she has learned to walk, the steps of independence have continued to be larger and larger. I have been letting go of my perfectionism and I have also begun letting them go slowly with each milestone. I have learned to not say, “I will never…” in parenting or “My child will never…” Again, I am an imperfect mom raising strong, independent, imperfect girls in an imperfect world.
In teaching, we use the term “the gradual release model”. This is a process that shifts the responsibility of learning and teaching from the teacher to the student as they grasp new knowledge and apply it in various ways. I like to compare it to teaching your child to ride a bike. At first, you give them training wheels. You see that their confidence is great with the training wheels, so you then take them off. As they begin riding with two wheels, you hold on with two hands so tightly because they are so wobbly and cannot keep their balance. Soon, you are just holding on to the back as they continue to wobble. You do not want to let go but you feel that their balance is better. You then tell them, “You can do this!” and you let go. They fall. You pick them up and look into their eyes, “Try again! You can do this!” After a couple more failures you are running beside them….they are riding… a little wobbly but they are doing it! You are so excited! They are smiling. And then you stop and watch them go as their confidence gets stronger and stronger with each pedal. They are ready. They are doing it on their own.
Over the years, I have watched moms go before me in gradually releasing responsibility to their children. Moms that loved hard and loved big. I have watched them let go graciously. I witnessed them letting their children go because letting them go means they have room to grow. They made it look easy when I knew that it wasn’t. One mom that I looked up to would say, “When they are ready.” I have used this with my girls. We do not have time frames when things will happen. We will do it “when you are ready.” Sometimes it is sooner. Sometimes it is later.
For me, the time has come. We sent our daughter to a private school close to home that was a perfect fit for her academically, socially, and emotionally. In three years, she has grown more than I ever thought possible. As a junior, we have decided to allow her to board. We did not think this would happen so soon. But she is ready. Selfishly, I do not want her to be. At first, we said no. She is ready.
Your child may be going to college. Your child may be going to kindergarten. As parents, we are always in the state of letting go. An amazing lady that I admire, Julie Gaver, has done this with her two sons successfully. She recently posted a status at just the right time. “Hold on tightly. Let go lightly! There is both sadness and joy knowing that our children do not belong to us, rather merely come through us. And sometimes that makes letting go less difficult.”
We are packing up and getting ready to let go lightly. We are here for her when she falls. We are here for her when she flies. This is her story and we are excited to watch her write it. The tables have turned. I am holding on to her fingers tightly and she is ready for me to let go. And I am.