Baby Steps to Letting Go

I’ve graduated from raising children to having grandchildren. The bumpy path of maturing  teenagers can take its toll on parents. How many teary prayers have been quietly shared or scratched between the pages of our journals?

My child’s  self-sufficiency did not always arrive in a timely fashion, and there came a time that I had to step back and assess how best to parent my adult child. I admire people who are able to just let go. Some children mature and make life choices that sustain them, but what happens when everyone else’s kid has moved forward, but yours is still lingering in immaturity? What if they don’t fly or get a job? Do we consider ourselves a failure?  Can we just let go and move on hoping that they’ll figure out life some day?

In raising seven kids, it’s been my experience that the answer lies in evaluating each young adult for who they are before we think about where they are in their life journey.

My style of parenting is what some may call hard or tough love. My kids were given their own laundry basket at a young age and taught how to wash their own clothes. I encouraged them to help me cook and do chores. And they were expected to get a job as we were teaching them how to drive. Allowances just didn’t work for us, but we have paid our kids to paint a deck or to do other jobs.

Our situation is unusual in that we had several children who saw therapists and took medication. Some developed at a slower rate  emotionally so that even at 18 they were not ready to live independently even though they may have desired it. Each one was different. So what’s a parent to do?

We found solutions according to their unique bent. One moved in with a grandmother. One moved in with a friend. Another one dealt with severe anxiety so when the transition came we practiced alone time by renting a hotel room for a few days.* Our adult child learned a lot and so did we, about abilities and areas needing more focus. *Note: we did this alongside a counselor.

Several times our adult children bounced back home for a season. We always had the expectation that they would find work of some sort while living home. We’d help them move out when they had enough money saved up or when they found a roommate. And if they weren’t making progress in saving money I had no problem charging them rent. Not a lot, but some money due each month. I saved every dollar they gave me in a separate account and when there was enough we’d help them find an apartment with money they didn’t know they had.  We’d help find furniture and  household items to get them set up. Some people may perceive this as hard-hearted, but we knew that we weren’t going to be alive forever. We did what we felt was best for each unique child. Our goals weren’t to get rid of our children, but to teach them how to live without us.

It’s been a long journey. There were days when depression hit so hard that I staggered. Times when I was called to the ER; when I thought my kids weren’t going to make it. Times when their choices broke my heart. And occasions when I’ve been physically threatened by my child, but love continues to surround our family. We’ve gotten through each challenge one baby step at a time. Our journey has not been easy, but it’s been oh so rewarding to see our young adults mature and learn to do life on their own– their way.

Maturity isn’t just for our kids, it’s for us too. In life, we grow and learn alongside them. I’m pleased to be able to point out things they’ve accomplished that they never knew they could do. I am their biggest cheerleader. Hey, my kid rose to the challenge and grew… and so did I.

Peace and blessings my friend,

Debbie