As a parent, I struggle with remembering that my kids are real people. I know that sounds weird, but what I mean is that they are their own people. They have their own thoughts, beliefs, and dreams. We invest so much over the years, trying to raise these little creatures into the kind of people we can stand to be around. We literally spend years of our lives trying to influence and control every decision and every outcome. We spend countless moments counseling and explaining, lecturing and reassuring, praising and guiding their every move. All of this in the hopes that someday, they will become the people we want them to be.
These past few years, as my kids have begun the real transition into adulthood, I am realizing that they need to be their own people. God has a plan for their lives; it really isn’t up to me how they will turn out. I can do my best to impart wisdom and values, but in the end, how they turn out is really up to them. I can’t make every decision for them, nor do I really want to forever. I want them to grow into their skin, and make decisions that they can live with. I want them to find their voice, and learn to use it.
I want so much for these kids, I sometimes try to force the outcome that I think is best. I put my stamp on their thoughts, trying to make them think as I do. Yes, it is my job to teach them well, and raise them to know where to find the truth they seek. It has never been my job to make them into me. In reality, I wouldn’t want them to be. I’m far from perfect, and I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. I actually want better for my kids…I want them to have an easier road to walk. Sometimes I get caught in the trap of trying to remove every stumbling block, pothole, or diversion from their path. That is not my job, and I’m so glad that it isn’t because I really don’t think that is possible…or wise. Keeping my kids from making their own decisions because they might make a bad one, isn’t teaching them anything. The reality is that they will make bad decisions, they will make choices that I didn’t even consider, they will fall; it’s my job to help them up, dust them off, and set them back on the road. I can, and should, help them learn from the choices they make. I should point them in the direction of truth. I should give them advice from an open heart. I should not try to keep them from growing into their britches though.
I guess this is just one more step in the letting go process. I’m learning to bite my tongue, bide my time, and avoid verbiage that sounds like “I told you so”. They need to know that it is okay to fail. I’m still going to love them, they’ll always have a safe place to learn from their mistakes. I need them to be confident enough to try. I need them to be willing to fail. I need them to trust themselves in difficult situations. I need them to trust themselves, period. How can they ever get to that point if I don’t trust them? If I have done my job correctly, they will be well equipped to handle themselves appropriately.
Let’s say they do fall every now and again…why do we as parents, feel like their poor decisions are a direct reflection on us? Raising capable adults, means allowing them their own freedom of choice. Sometimes their choices will line up with what they have been taught; sometimes they will go completely rogue and make a choice that seemingly forgets everything we ever taught them. This makes them young and maturing; this doesn’t make us bad parents. I have to stop wearing them as badges of honor. Their accomplishments are theirs, their poor decisions are theirs…they are their own people, good or bad. My job is to love them regardless, and to help them when they need guidance.
I cringe when someone says that a parent should’ve taught their kid better than that. Most of us do, but that doesn’t mean that they always listen or agree with our teaching. In the end, the decision will be theirs to make. All we can do is teach them well and pray! We can pray that our words found the way into their hearts. We can pray that they will choose right over wrong. We can pray wisdom over them. We cannot take the fall for their mistakes though. We cannot blame ourselves when our kids don’t think just like us.
So, I’m learning how to step back. I’m learning how to just listen to my kids. I can’t shoulder the weight of everyone’s decisions. As they grow, they should be able to carry their own weight. This doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t ache when they are faced with difficult choices. I still feel their pain, sorrow, stress, and anguish…after all, I am still their mom; their #1 fan. I feel every step, and every misstep. I’m learning to just love them through these times though; not try to shield them from everything. I’m trying not to clean up every mess just to save face as a parent.
Maybe you struggle with this whole letting go thing too. I certainly hope that I’m not alone in this process. For some reason, I don’t think that I am. Love your kids and hold on…sometimes being a good parent is a bumpy ride; but it is so worth it.