As a parent you nurture and reinforce another life when your child is young. Bit-by-bit your child learns and develops, as you grow right alongside him or her in the present. It is easy and natural to stay focused on daily activities, individual, and family needs. When parenting, your energy is spent in the moments, with some future planning, yet the future of you being apart seems so very far away. Times to look forward to when caring for your little ones include: developmental milestones (physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual), school and peer success, learning to drive, graduating high school, going to college, and then creating a career, marriage, and family. When in the throes of parenting, thinking ahead about your child going off into their life while you get peace and quiet is a distant dream.
Emotionally, however is another story for parents when anticipating the release of a child into the world- when the time is right. The idea of getting your time, energy, privacy, sleep, or freedom back (as it was pre-child) is exhilarating and liberating. Parents can fantasize about when this day comes, too. The reality of this however, signifies a true “letting go” which is not an easy task for most parents. There is security in the act of contemplation that is emotionally safe, because it is not necessary to deal with the emotions until its manifestation.
In order for a parent to begin to become comfortable with their chick leaving the nest someday, a couple of things have to happen. The parent must understand the importance of their child having, “Roots and Wings” (Baby and Childcare, Dr. Benjamin Spock, 1946). The roots come from love, safety, and security in the home and in the parent-child relationship. When raising children, it is vital for the parent(s) to reinforce their child’s worth, gifts, and life skillset. This helps the child to have a strong sense of their identity and faith in their capacity to be successful in life. It is of the utmost importance to reinforce this future eventuality so that the child has the confidence and tools to be a secure, functional adult. In this later effort, reinforced through guidance and encouragement by the parent, the child can grow their wings to eventually fly the coop. When the parent values this eventual autonomy, as opposed to holding on to keep the child close (for their own needs), the child appreciates the parents support and values his or her independence, all the more.
“As you practice your skills as a lifetime parent, learn when it feels right to hold on and why, and when you need to let go, and to what degree. Learn to release some control over your child’s life for each passage and situation. Understanding when to hold on and when to let go is one of the most necessary and challenging of all parental skills.” (Parenting for Life, Nina Sidell, 2015).
Cherish all of the many moments and passages of time with your child. Whether it is a walk in the park or a ride on a rollercoaster, still cherish it all. Cherish every moment, every second and be present while wondering about or planning for the future. Every age and stage is a good one. Oprah Winfrey has said, “Parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love.” I completely agree, except for the times when it is bliss.
Whether you are a married, partnered parent, or a single parent, cherish the bond you create as you enjoy watching your child progress. Take responsibility for yourself, your history, and do your work to heal unresolved wounds. If you have had difficulties along the way, know that you are not alone and that it takes a great deal of love, strength, courage, and commitment to parent well. If you and your co-parent share similar parenting tools and philosophies, you are in a wonderful position, especially if those tools work well. If you are not aligned with your partner around how to parent or teach (discipline), or are a single parent, then see your relationship with your child or children as sacred, get support and do the very best you can.
As a second time-around single mother who has had practice letting go of my older child for college and beyond, I am now experiencing letting go of my younger child who is entering college. My once lively and well-lived in home is getting quiet. I am finding myself very focused on my work and acknowledging my feelings. I believe in my children and I am always here for them. We share family time, talks, hugs, and plan for continued shared holiday visits and long weekends home. It is a letting go with deep love and an incredibly full heart that I can release my singular influence and set my children free. I am setting myself free at the same time, as if we are all perched atop a great valley- about to fly!
Parenting is a valiant journey; home is comprised of the hearts within it. Wanting our baby chicks close, we love them by allowing the nest to empty, transforming life into something else. The connection remains- with a lifetime of love ahead. Part of our job description as parents is to evolve right alongside our children, every step of the way.
Live Inspired! ® Nina Sidell, M.A. Therapist, Life Coach, Speaker, Writer, and Award-Winning and Deepak Chopra endorsed author of, Parenting for Life www.LiveInspiredwithNina.com