No matter the age of your child, letting go creates guilt and internal conflict. We worry about the violence in the world, we want them to avoid our “mistakes” and we just generally want to make life easier for them. Let’s be completely honest here, there is no other love that compares to the love a mother or father has for a child and the responsibility that comes with caring for and protecting that child. With that, it’s no wonder that operating out of that pure love, creates an intense, unexpected love bond that is hard to break. And, it’s also not shocking that parents have a tough time letting go and allowing their child to be more independent. I am in the throes of it. And, let me tell you (if you’ve not experienced it), there is no event that feels more significant or makes you feel more protective then when your teenager is getting ready to enter college.
While I have to admit to screwing up regularly in the “letting go” category, I did create a note for myself about a month ago, (it’s shoved in my wallet) to read to myself when I’m feeling sad about this “letting go” thing. Truthfully, there’s nothing I’ve done thus far, not being in front of the toughest judge, or having the most challenging case … or even the death of my mother, that has prepared me for this event (or maybe all of it has …).
Here’s my internal but hand-written speech to me:
- Set boundaries for yourself; practice giving the boys space (and being ok doing so)
- Teach them how to take care of themselves and let them learn from their mistakes
- Trust that the values you’ve instilled will carry them (they tell me all the time – “Mom, you raised us right. Trust us!” Out of the mouths of babes)
- Acknowledge you. Know that you’ve done your best at every stage – regardless of how imperfect
- Treat this “letting go” process as a transitional loss. It’s ok to grieve. It’s ok to cry in the grocery store (so Italian!) Be comfortable with it all
- Build your new relationship with the boys. It’s now one of mutual respect, admiration of all they’ve done and a celebration of their new lives in front of them (and in front of you )
There are a million articles to read and I’ve given myself a million speeches. The truth is, what seems like a lifetime of taking care of kids simultaneously seems to be over in a blink of an eye. This end seems like a beginning and this beginning seems like an end. All I can know for sure is we (collective we) will get through this. Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, these are big life changes. But, it was our job from the beginning and we can (and should) take heart – that we’ve done good and there’s some cool things to come!
Have a great weekend my friends!