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,
Wendy R Cathcart
Debbie, I agree 100% with you. Each child is so different. We raised 4, all young adults now. 2 are married to wonderful spouses, 1 recently broke up with her boyfriend, so that 1 and our youngest 1 now share an apartment together. I can relate to many of your experiences, and I’ve always said that my husband and I are NOT the same people we were when we married, due in major part to having been tossed around in God’s ‘rock polishing machine’ called ‘parenting’. Counseling has always come in the form of encouragement from older people who had ‘been around the block’ a time or two or ten before, and we have been humbled but oh so grateful for the ways God has brought us through. Thank you so much for sharing your personal insights.
Thanks, Wendy. I feel so very grateful for the family God has given us and wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learned so much and continue on the journey with eyes up. Blessings <3
Lee Ann Harris
Each and every one of those kids was so blessed to have you as a mom! Thank you for sharing such a personal experience!
Your love for each of your children has been very evident by those who have watched you on this journey. It’s been a long, winding road but every step you sought God to guide you. You took what others might have called “misery” and turned it into a ministry. Much healing has occurred and will continue. Your children are so very blessed to be in your family!
Your parenting and your faith and dependence on God have always gone hand in hand and have both been an incredible testimony and example to me through the years! Your love might have been ‘tough’ but it was also unconditional, and your kids always knew it and know it still. xo
Joan E. White
As always, dear Debbie, I am moved by your total trust and complete confidence in God’s Love and Mercy; waiting (often a form of pain and suffering) for God’s Hand to guide, guard and protect you and your family.
Your willingness , so necessary and needed, to ‘face, trace, embrace and let God erase or lace’ was and continues to be phenomenal. For as we know, the journey has not come to an end
Your writing skills , a gift of God, and again your willingness to use them for his honor and glory remain
a source of strength and renewal for you.
Blessings as we ‘continue to walk one another home.
Debbie, This is beautiful!
Thank you for sharing so vulnerably.
Thank you all for your encouragement. It was I who was endeavoring to encourage other parents to stay the course. You’ve blessed me greatly with your words. <3