As you begin this week, may you remember to hold your children loosely, with open hand and outstretched fingers, rather than white knuckles and clinched fist.
School’s out, days stretch long, and it’s an ideal time to explore…discover…seek adventure.
While I’m encouraging you, I need to encourage myself just as strongly – I’m living in the days when this is so hard.
Yesterday my middle child turned 19. Nineteen! How can it be I just held my first-born son for the first time, and yet in August he’ll be heading off to college? He thinks 19 is a “boring” birthday – it’s no milestone like 16 or 21 – but a mama realizes it means that once he leaves this time, returning home will only be temporary. (wince)
And my baby, 16, is striking two off his bucket list in a single week: last week I watched him soar in a tandem hang glider (yikes!), and today he’s en route to South Africa to serve orphans during a ten-day mission trip. What will change more? Him, or the pieces of the world he touches?
Holding your children loosely looks different, of course, depending on their ages; the point is to be aware of their need for independence. We aren’t raising adult children, after all; we’re raising eventual adults.
For a pre-schooler, it might mean letting them choose their outfit for the day; for a grade-school son, it could mean letting him go into the men’s restroom instead of the ladies’ with mom; for a tween, maybe it’s a movie and the mall with friends for the day.
Cultivating your child’s independence is a gift to him or her. To continue to micro-manage your children’s choices is a disservice to both of you…and may breed resentment in a teen, and an unhealthy attachment for both of you. Gaining age-appropriate independence is essential to your child’s well-being.
Sometimes encouraging independence will be harder on you than your children, so a gradual approach is likely better than ripping off the Band-aid. It’s crawling before you walk before you run; or as I learned with hang gliding, beginning with a tandem instructor tethered to a plane that releases you, before running off a launch site on a solo flight.
Your toddler instinctively knows this – I can still hear a faint echo of my babies declaring, “I do it!” to demonstrate they were old enough to do whatever it was they insisted they could do.
So this summer, why not let your littles fly? If they fall, you’ll be nearby to scoop them up; and if their wings catch wind, they’ll soar strong and free.
Just whatever you do, don’t blink; because then it won’t be your littles flying…it will be time.