Parenting is a step into the unknown, it starts when they are born and each phase is a new step, one that we yet know nothing about. Regardless of how many children you have each phase with each child is different, and your job is to try figure it all out.
There are so many things that parenting books don’t tell, so many things that they don’t even hint at.
They never mention, for instance, how parenting is the ultimate contradiction.
The love for your child fills your heart to capacity, yet with each child you can multiply that love.
Children can make you feel so complete and so blessed, and yet can cause feelings of isolation that you could never describe.
They can make you feel heart bursting pride and yet can make you feel failure that you could never have previously imagined.
One of the aspects of parenting that I struggle most with is letting go. I’m so used to micromanaging them, the baby and toddler stage means they rely so heavily on you that it becomes second nature to be in control of their environment. Moving past this is difficult.
When we go to cross the road I instinctively say my the nine year old ‘hold my hand’…I immediately get the eyerolls and we both smile, old habits are hard to break.
And here at home when they want to head off across the fields my automatic reaction is
‘Are you crazy, that’s too dangerous’….that’s my internal reaction, my external one is ‘ just give me a minute and I’ll come with ye’….again I’m the recipient of the eyerolls!
But I’m getting better at stepping back. I’m trying hard to remember that sense of freedom that we had growing up. Long days playing with no parents hovering nearby, swimming in the river or going down stream on rafts that we had spent hours building.
Okay my sense of letting go will never stretch to unsupervised access to waterways but in many ways we are making progress.
I returned from a half days work recently to find a perfectly quiet house. I sat in glorious sunshine and drank a coffee and wondered where the children were. Eventually one arrived, flushed with excitement looking, not for me, but for a brush handle for a project they were working on. I started to go to investigate but was begged not to.
‘It’s not finished’ I was told.
‘Is Dad with ye?’ I asked
‘No, he’s up the lane’ came the reply ‘ but we are being really good and are just in the field’
As much as I wanted to check, I knew I needed to leave them. I sat, somewhat worried and trying to talk myself out of it.
Eventually the call came, I was being beckoned to see the project.
Many hours had been spent building a tree swing, It took a small amount of engineering and a lot of team work to get it to work and they were bursting with pride at having managed it.
I dwell somewhere between a ‘sure they’ll be grand’ husband who takes benign neglect to a new level, and a mother who’s most favoured expression is ‘you can’t be too careful’.
It’s hard to let go, to step back and let them find their feet. Our most basic instinct is to protect, to watch, to hover, to smooth the path and to make sure that everything is just right. But in doing so we are denying them these small but HUGE victories. Our protective instinct is in danger of smothering their instinct for adventure, for self reliance, for problem solving.
So I will be trying to curb the need to hover, step away from the helicopter mom label and give my kids a chance at some of the freedoms that we had growing up ( again without the unsupervised access to water!)
If you’re looking for me I’ll be here,sitting tensely, clutching a coffee, wondering and hoping that I’m doing the right thing.