Friday, July 4, 2014

Learning to Let Go

When our babies are born, they are completely helpless.  They can do nothing for themselves except cry and mess their diaper and maybe open their eyes. Basic, instinctual stuff.

You think to yourself, Whoa. I am in charge of this little body. I have to take care of it, nurture, guide... Whoa.

But babies don't stay little.  They grow.  Soon they can smile, hold themselves up, move themselves around, maybe even say a few things.  You think, They're getting so big, but they're still so helpless.  I still need to do a lot for them.

They keep on growing.  Soon enough, they're dressing themselves, feeding themselves, cleaning up after themselves (with some... ahem... prompting), and they voice their opinions clearly and distinctly and loudly and often.  They're not so helpless anymore, and your new job as a parent is to... let them grow, let them choose, let them feel consequences.

That. Is. So. Hard. To. Do.

It is indescribably difficult to watch them, LET them, make really stupid choices that you know you've taught them better than to choose.  Even harder is letting them feel the consequences of those actions without mitigation.

I'm having a hard time letting go.

It's easier to let the "good" children go.  You know, the kids who 99% of the time listen to you, do the smart thing, the right thing. And when they make a wrong choice, it's on something really small and almost unimportant.

It takes herculean effort to let your problem strong-willed child do the same.  You know, the one who has a mind all their own, takes things apart just to see the parts and leaves you with a destroyed whatever and no way of fixing it, or the one who goes around the block without telling you.  This is the one that makes you wonder if you'll turn prematurely gray or if you'll get a call from the police about this child one day.

Are you serious? Let this child make those big, stupid mistakes??

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that these little people are just that... little people, with hopes and dreams all their own, with wills and spirits all their own.  They're not mine to control; they're mine to guide.  When children are little, it's easy to develop the illusion of control, but really, they're going to choose what they want, do what they want, and think what they want.  You can't actually control another person, and the illusion bursts rather violently for these independent little buggers as soon as they figure out the truth.

You can probably guess that specific children and specific events have led me down this path.  I won't go into specifics because it is their life, not mine to share.  But I have struggled for months with this seemingly fine line between guidance and control called discipline.  I'll admit it hasn't all been for the good of my kids... I want to look like a good mother.  Ironically, the more I tried to look like a good mother by controlling my kids, the less successful I was, and the less I felt like a good mother.  I became angrier and more frustrated, and took it out on my kids. (I am ashamed.)

Then I found this book at the library:

I read it voraciously the first time.  It resonated with me, but I didn't initially feel able to apply it to my life.

I read it again.

And again.

Then I had to give it back to the library...

I mentioned it to my mother during one of our Skype sessions, and she said, "Oh! I think I have that one!"

She did. No wonder it seemed familiar.  I've spent many hours perusing my parents' extensive library.

She bought me my own copy.  I gushed and thanked her profusely.  And I thank her daily when I open it up to consult about a problem.

Dr. Latham (who coincidentally calls the city I'm living in right now home) has taught me so much about how to be a Christlike parent.  I've learned things like how to keep my cool (and why it's important), specific phrases to say in certain types of situations so I don't get embroiled in an argument, and most importantly, how to let my children make their own choices, and simply learn from the consequences.

Easier said than done, let me tell you.

But I have already seen the fruits of this exercise, not only in the lives of my strong-willed and independent children, but in all of them.

I continue to struggle with my need to be in control, but it gets a little easier every day.

It gets easier because I'm learning that I'm not just letting go.  I'm letting them go to God, He who knew them before they were mine, He who knows how best to guide them, what is best for them to hear.  They're not being left alone; I'm allowing God to show Himself in their lives.

That feels pretty good.

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