Raising kids is not for the faint of heart. Every stage of bringing up those little ones has its own challenges. If you have even one kid, for even one moment, you know this is true.
My youngest kid just got his driver’s license. It’s the fourth time I’ve taught a kid to drive and watched them drive off alone behind the wheel of a car. You’d think it would be easy this time. But it’s not. I can’t help but think of the damage that can be done by an inexperienced driver. So I do what I’ve always done, and keep doing for my young drivers, I pray. And I let go a little bit.
Some moms have a hard time letting go. We’ve invested a lot of time, energy and well, money, into these kids. There are not too many other projects we pour ourselves into like we do our kids. But let’s be honest. Some of it’s for them, but a lot of it is to prove to the world that we can do it, that we can get these kids to adulthood not needing counseling. The measure of their success as human beings reflects upon our own success as parents. So we want them to do us proud.
We want them to be the best ball player on the team. We want them to earn the most badges or sell the most rolls of wrapping paper. (It’s why you take the brochure to work and beg your coworkers to buy paper they could get for a fraction of the price elsewhere.) We want them to sing the prettiest, stand the tallest, run the fastest, and achieve the highest. We want moment after moment something great to post or talk about. We need the evidence of our mad mom skills.
But raising kids is not about us. Not really. I mean it is, because in doing it we learn so much about ourselves. We see the best of who we are in our kids. And we see some of our shortcomings, too. But raising kids is about them. By nature, kids are selfish, and when they are little, we have to cater to the selfishness in order for them to survive. Feed me, warm me up, change my wet, cold diaper! We spend years meeting their every need to the best of our abilities, and then wonder why they come to expect us to do that. About the time their voices drop, we suddenly want them to appreciate us and all that we have done for them for so long. Why?
Because without warning, Mom, you are not the only game in town anymore. Suddenly we find they think someone else is pretty cool. Maybe cooler than you. I know. It’s crazy. For years you have been the hero, comforter, teacher, soft shoulder. Have they forgotten those long nights of no sleep? Have they forgotten the extra shifts you worked so they could play ball or take lessons? Yes. They have. Something, someone out there is grabbing their attention now. You are holding onto their hand, but they are pulling away. Looking at something… out there.
If we are not careful, as moms, this can be a very selfish moment. Suddenly, we can only think of the things they seem not to be able to remember. The moments, hours, and years of care and nurture. The sacrifices, effort, and energy expended. Now we want our reward. Now we want them to pay homage to all that we have given. Now we find we have a vise grip. Now, when the time has come for them to look elsewhere to others. Others. We don’t like others, do we? Yet we need to be okay with others. Oh, we need to monitor the others, for sure, but the truth is, it is through the others that all we have taught them will be measured. Can they successfully live with, work with, and relate to the others? Can they let go of our hand and be okay standing there alone, on their own? We won’t know until they do it, and that means we have to be okay with loosening that grip.
It is likely the hardest part of being a mom. Finding out that they are okay without your opinions and control, even if they don’t do it all the way you think they should. Finding that all that effort really has paid off. That when their attention was turned to you, that they really did listen. That they did learn to love, give, protect, and stand… from you. But all of the effort was for them… for when you let go.
Mom, that’s the reward. The reward is that when we let go, they can do just fine on their own.