I have always tried to fight my natural tendency to be a helicopter parent, hovering over my children as they make decisions and interact with others. I have fought this because I know my children need to be able to make their own decisions and have the freedom to build their own relationships and be independent.
Wow, I make it sound easy and as if I'm succeeding but honestly it really is a struggle to let go of control. For example, I dressed my kids for far longer than I needed to because then I could be in control of how quickly they could be ready to leave the house. This is something I was forced to relinquish once the twins came along.
In a similar vein, recently I have been feeling like I would rather pack up all our belongings and escape to an island rather than expose my kids to the evils of the outside world. I think the internet, particularly social media, really emphasises the negatives of living on planet earth sometimes. I want to protect my kids from these things; maybe that is just part of my maternal instinct? (Trying to convince myself?)
Never mind the fact that I'd probably last no longer than a day or two on a secluded island!
A question came to mind, I feel like it was God trying to reach me. It asked: "do you trust your children?" Wow! Do I trust my children? Do I actually believe in their ability to make good choices and to learn from their mistakes? It has caused quite the period of reflection in me, which is not unusual for me because I am a bit of thinker or most accurately a dwell-on-stuff-er.
I've actually come to the conclusion that as with many aspects of parenting, there is a balance to be won; a delicately interwoven balance of protection and empowerment. Animal lover is now 10 years old and will soon be entering the rollercoaster/obstacle course better know as high school. She will need to feel like I trust her and she will need to know that although I am always here to offer protection, I believe in her own capacity to protect herself.
It's the same feeling as when you let your toddler negotiate the steps of the slide at the playground for the first time. As you watch them ascend each step, your mind urges your body to reach for them but as you hold yourself back, after the 5-second feeling of nausea passes, you watch them sit themselves down at the top, then listen to their joy filled scream as they descend. Okay, so that last bit is a stretch, I realise it doesn't always end well when you let go of control... life is messy!
Letting go is a constant process as I become mindful of the daily activities and emotional events that my children no longer need my help with. I never let go completely and I'm always there waiting, because I am still needed and will always be needed. But now I know I need to trust my children and stop letting fear make my parenting decisions for me.
There will no doubt be situations that will lead me to dream of that island. There will be times when I want to pack our bags and jump in the car but maybe instead of escaping to an island, we can go to the top of a mountain and look out at this world; there is beauty and good to be found in it after all.