Being a parent, or grandparent, can be a lot of fun but it can also involve a great deal of stress especially when our children don’t do what we would like them to do.
Recently, I was tuned into a radio station as listeners called in with stories about the last time they had been told off by their mother—and it was hilarious. Yes, it was corny, stereotypical humour but it still created a lot of laughs. It was funny because we can all relate to the one-dimensionality of the situation of the mother nagging, and the child not doing what was expected.
It also highlighted how we (as parents) get typecast and the longer we are in the ‘job’ and the older our children get, the more typecast we usually become. If we are not careful we can find ourselves caught in a one-act role.
Ideally, we need to change as our children mature — in fact, change before they change. We need to stay one step ahead because at some point it becomes appropriate for us to drop our role as the parent in their lives and transition the relationship into that of an adult-to-adult.
In the long term it is for the good of them, and us, that we let go; we need to detach. Yet letting go does not come easy to most of us — and the times we find ourselves hanging on the hardest, is often the time we most need to let go.
We will find it difficult to let go if we think our child still ‘needs’ us, or if we allow ourselves some latitude to go back on our word like when we defer decisions with ‘I’ll deal with that next time’. Or when we never deliver on the consequences like when we use the ineffective parent mantras: ‘If I have to tell you one more time…’ ‘Do that again and I’ll…’ ‘Next time I’ll…’
There comes a time when we need to stop giving one more chances both to our kids AND ourselves. We need to free our kids to own their decisions: how else will they learn to have an adult-to-adult relationship with us if we do not stop enabling them to keep acting as a child?
Create space for the new
As our children mature into young adults what we need to let go of is our expectations and wishes. Our children have every right to be their own person. When we have truly let go we separate ourselves to appreciate who they really are, and create the space to witness new things develop — like the blossoming of a fine young individual for one thing.
Kahlil Gibran wrote of this detachment in his powerful poem, ‘On Children’:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite.
And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hands be for happiness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves the bow that is stable.
Therefore the secret to being a joyful parent is to love them, be bendy (have some fun), be stable… and let them go.
By Jane Francis, Parent Mentor & Coach