Letting Our Kids Go

This past weekend my boys and I ran in a fun run 5k for a school district fundraiser.  It was the first 5k  as a family and the first the boys have ever done.  I was nervous because I was not familiar with the area where it was held, we all ran at different levels and I didn’t know how crowded it would be.  So my solution was that we needed to stick together and run at the pace of the slowest runner.  My oldest was the faster runner of the three of us.  He would run ahead then jog in place until my youngest and I caught up.  He wanted to be able to tell his gym teacher that he, “ran the whole 5k without stopping”.

At about the half-way point, I realized I was holding my 10-year-old back.  He was not complaining, but I wasn’t allowing him to do his best.  So, I made the decision to let him run ahead and trust that he was responsible enough to complete the race on his own and find his dad at the finish line.  It was a small thing, but I knew to let him go and stretch his proverbial wings during the event.

I swear, letting go is one of the hardest things for me to do but it is part of letting them grow up!  When my boys were babies, I had to do everything for them.  When they were toddlers, they wanted to do everything themselves but still needed my help.  As they get older I have to let go more and more so they can learn to do things for themselves and become responsible functioning human beings.  It’s a constant balancing act to let them grow and explore with keeping them safe and on a good, responsible path in life when all I want to do is hold my boys tight and keep them safe.

At least we have 18 years and can let go little by little.  First, we watched them as toddlers on the playground.  Staying close enough to step in if needed, but far enough away that they can play with the other kids on their own.  After that, we sent them off to school where we couldn’t follow.  With each new grade, they must learn more responsibility.  Now the boys are in charge of completing their own homework assignments and turning them in.  My husband and I can help by giving them reminders,

Vincent crossing the finish line

Vincent crossing the finish line

but ultimately we have to let go and let the boys learn the responsibility for turning in their own assignments.

Sports bring us to another level of letting go.  I have to let someone else be in charge because I know the boys have to learn to deal with different rules in different places and different personality types.  They have to learn that sometimes they may not agree, but they need to listen to the coach/refs/umps and not talk back (as long as they are safe).  The boys have had to learn that there are respectful ways/times to voice their disagreement and other times where rules are rules and life isn’t always fair.

They learn that they are responsible for their own actions and the consequences that may come from their actions during the games.  Sometimes, that is hard for me to sit and watch.  I just want to jump in and walk them through the situations but have to remember that it’s healthy for them to learn to deal with different situations.  Mistakes will be made, but that’s part of growing up.  I have to remind myself that my boys won’t learn to be healthy functioning members of society if my husband and I don’t let go and let them learn through experience.  They won’t learn to take responsibility for their choices or how far they can go and how successful they can be.  They might fall from time to time, but I will be there to help pick them up and help redirect them if needed.

Ian crossing the finish line

Ian crossing the finish line

We are preparing them for life.   Holding them too tight won’t help them in the long run.  We won’t be here forever and they need to learn to function without mom and dad making the decisions.  The best we can do is to prepare them the best we can.  We talk to them about proper behavior in various situations. We talk to them about being a team player and listening to the rules, even if they disagree. We are teaching them to respect their coaches and other authority figures. We expose them to as much as we can and answer any questions they have.  We pick and choose our arguments and let the kids make some of their own choices, good or bad….as long as there’s no harm that could come to them.  That’s all we can do.

For me, the easiest way to let go is bit by bit and very mindfully.  Each time I’m afraid to let go I remember the reward I get.  I get to see the smile on their faces when they achieve what they were trying to do.  This weekend, I was glad I let go.  Not only was my oldest proud of his achievement of finishing on his own, my youngest decided to leave mom in the dust as well when the finish line came into view.

Both my babies jumped from the nest and they soared! They were so proud of their accomplishment and so was I!

Share some of your letting go stories in the comments below.