I am proud to introduce a new column to Madame Deals! I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy!
Life Lessons: Are We Helping or Hurting
I have written a lot over the past few years about letting our children grow and go, meaning that I believe it is our job to nurture our children and teach them to become independent able body individuals who can and will be successful members of society. I have also written about how much that part of parenting hurts. Having our children depend on us for everything in the beginning is exhausting; then one day we realize that they don’t need us as much and that realization is difficult to handle. Being somewhat of a control freak I have struggled with the idea of not knowing where my daughter is all of the time. I barely slept the first few months she was away at college and when I did I had horrible nightmares. I worried, texted, called and walked the floors. At the point of near exhaustion and with a lot of encouragement from close friends and family I decided that the only way to get my life back was to let her have her own life and trust that her dad and I had done our job in preparing her for life; her life. So far, I believe she has done a great job and while I will always worry about her I can honestly say that the panic worry no longer exists; I have let her go and I am happy for her. I am happy to say that she does come home from time to time to visit which makes my heart very happy.
Recently I had a conversation with the father of two young college aged girls. During the conversation I learned that the oldest one had returned home from college because well quite frankly her social life got in the way of her academic life. According to her father she was spending too much time socializing and not enough time on her studies and he decided that the tuition money was being wasted. At first I thought “good for him, way to go” but after our conversation progressed I wondered if maybe he wasn’t part of the reason she spent so much time socializing. This man gave me a long list of things he requires from his children before he allows them to do certain things. For example, each one must take a personal finance class before they are allowed to have a checking account, they must take a self-defense course (which I think is a good idea), they must take a gun safety course and pass, they must be able to change a tire on the car before they are allowed to drive, they must play a sport and they must play the piano for six years. There were more things on the list but my mind began to wander and I don’t remember them. While all of these items listed seem to be good and relatively important I wonder if maybe he has focused so much on the list that he did not allow his daughter to be a teenaged girl. I wonder if by the time she got to college she was so overwhelmed by freedom and all of the options that college life has to offer that she tried to make up for lost time and let loose a little too much. Did his plan backfire? Was his daughter really prepared for college and living on her own? Well, she could change a flat tire, shoot a gun and play you a snappy little tune on the piano, but she wasn’t able to create balance between work and play; a necessary life skill I think.
When we become parents we have complete control over everything; and then something happens. Somehow in the whole growing up process our children learn that they have a mind and they begin to use it. Oh sure it’s cute when they look at you with drool dripping from their chubby little chin and tell you “no” for the first time but by the time they are 14 and tell you “no” it ain’t so cute anymore. And it’s by this time we have to realize that just because we tell our children something they really don’t have to believe it. They have a mind and they are going to learn how to make their own decisions. It is our job to teach them how to do it and then let them do it. But what happens when we don’t let them learn to use their brains to make decisions and mistakes? Are we helping our children by not allowing them to fall flat on their face or make mistakes that have uncomfortable consequences? No we are not. We have to let them grow up and we have to let them fail. I believe that being a responsible parent requires knowing when to let go and let them learn for themselves.
At the beginning of every school year I encourage the parents of my students to make the morning drop off routine quick and easy by encouraging them to drop their child off at the door and leave. Naturally that idea doesn’t always go over very well and I come off looking like a meanie. Well, I’m not trying to be a meanie; I am trying to encourage healthy separation for the children. I want them to be excited about school and I want them to come happy and ready for each day. What I have discovered in my eleven years of teaching is that most of the time the separation anxiety rests within the parents. Children are quick to accept change and will do so if the environment they are entering is fun and enriching; trust me, my classroom is nothing but fun and enriching! The ones who struggle most are the parents. They linger at the door, squeeze past me to get inside the room (because I stand guard like a German Shepherd) they ask for one more kiss and attempt to make idle chatter with me so they can observe. Using phrases like “tell mommy to have a great day” or “tell Daddy you will see him this evening” allows me to politely remind the parents that it is time for them to leave and allow their children to have their own time away from home learning to become independent.
We have to stop taking complete control and allow our children to grow up and move one. Is this easy? Absolutely not. Letting go of my daughter was one of the most excruciating things that I have ever done. My heart literally ached but I knew that I had to let her go. I encourage you to grow along side of your children. Be the parent, enforce your rules, set boundaries and teach your children how to become independent thoughtful people without stifling them and holding them back. Parenting is tough but the one thing we cannot do is live our children’s lives for them. We have to figure out how to create a balance between what we teach them and what they need to learn on their own and then let them do it. Personally, I would rather my child know how to take care of herself and call AAA for the flat tire, but hey, who’s to say my way is the right way? Whatever ways you choose make sure that your child is ready to face the world on their own in their own way. After that, sit back enjoy reaping the benefits of your parenting skills by watching your adult children live, love and thrive in a world that you prepared them for.