Although I haven’t yet read the book, the headline and brief overview got me thinking this past week about the things that I’ve done over the years to “prepare my children to fly,” and to make the most of the “940 Saturdays” that I get with each of my children (see the last two weeks of “Social Incites” for more information about those topics.) Here are some of the choices I’ve made to help my oldest son develop necessary life skills over the last 18 years:
- I’ve given him time to achieve things on his own. While it seemed to take “forever” for him to learn to dress himself, unload the dishwasher, pick up his toys, write a term paper, and learn to drive, I realized it was generally my own impatience that made it seem that way. The process of learning does take time, and often cannot be hurried nor replaced by intervention from another person. I could have done some of these things more efficiently and probably more effectively, but that would have robbed him of the opportunity to learn to do them independently.
- I’ve allowed other people to fill valuable roles in his life. Like my “Social Incites” on 6/25/12, I valued the input, expertise, and involvement of “sparrows” along the way. Only one person could be “Mom” to my son. I needed to allow others to be teachers, therapists, doctors, grandparents, and friends.
- I learned along with him. When he was little, together we learned and implemented a variety of strategies and exercises to help him overcome sensory, speech, and motor skill issues. As he’s gotten older, I’ve encouraged him to teach me about the things he’s learning and how he perceives life. I’ve encouraged him to ask questions, and I’ve shared lots of information about what I believe (and why), what I’ve experienced, and how those reflections might be similar to or different from those of other people.
- I’ve given him room to fail. After visiting a new preschool, he wanted to try a large classroom when I thought he was more likely to be successful in a smaller class. We tried his choice, and it worked great! When he came home from his first day of middle school and announced that he was going to run for student council, I swallowed my concerns and encouraged him to try. He won! The next year presented the opportunity to learn more about the democratic process and competition as he was disappointed to not be reelected. But the following year he was again elected to serve. He learned much more from experiencing these successes and failures than he would have if I had tried to shelter him from possible failure.
- I’ve allowed him to see my humanness. I readily admit that I do not have all the answers, and that I continue to learn from both my successes and failures. I have often had to apologize when I am wrong, and when I have wronged him. All too often, adults make life look “easy” for children and young people. I’ve wanted Ben to know of some of the struggles that I face, and the process I use to make difficult decisions. Often, I’ve invited him to be part of that process. It’s been a great learning experience for both of us!
- I’ve taught him to take responsibility for his own choices. As the firstborn child, Ben is naturally quite responsible and conscientious. But as with my other children, if he has an issue with a teacher or someone else, it’s his responsibility to contact that person to ask questions or make amends. For years, it’s been his job to do his own laundry, and to get himself up on time for school. If he wants to attend a camp or needs a scholarship, it’s his responsibility to fill out the paperwork and submit it by the deadline. He calls the pharmacy if a medication refill is needed, and fills the gas tank if the vehicle he’s driving is getting low on gas. Many parents err on the side of doing things for their children. I believe it’s important to teach them how to do things for themselves, especially if those tasks should technically be their responsibility.
Parenting is probably the most difficult job on the planet. Yet it is also the most rewarding! Ben hopes to go to college after this last year of high school, and has been saving his whole life to hopefully be able to pay for much of it himself. I pray that he’ll be able to continue to use his gifts to flourish, and to bless others along the way!
Best wishes to all of you who are also learning to” let go” on your parenting journey!