Being a mother is like no other role I have ever had. The job description does not stay the same from day to day and the hours are always all over the map. The benefits are plentiful but bathroom breaks are scarce, don’t start with be about vacation time. It is an intense role and I must admit I have questioned my sanity of accepting the role and even pursuing it in the first place.
The thing with me and children is that once I have one in my life for an extended period of time (a day) I become attached and fall in love immediately. They find their place in my heart and there is no escaping. I have always been this way. When I was younger and I would baby sit and each one of those children who I spent countless hours with became apart of my heart and memories. Realizing that I could make a career out of caring for sweet little people I decided to take up the low paying/ high rewarding career of becoming an Early Childhood Educator. with the help of my professors in my course I was able to learn great ways of loving children and letting them go when the time came. Children grow up, its a curse and a blessing all wrapped up in one crazy little snot nosed package.
A few years of working in the field and a few years of marriage I was finally at the stage of life where we were ready to start our family. It didn’t take long to find out we had a bun in the oven and we were naively excited. I remember thinking “babies are so cute!” “babies sleep all the time” “babies just like to cuddle.” “being a mom will be so relaxing.” “Maternity leave will be so wonderful and I will actual be bored. I should probably make huge plans and prepare projects to do while my baby sleeps and my home cooked meals are preparing in the oven.” Like I said, Naive!
Our sweet little boy entered the world on a cold day in November 3 long/short years ago and life has not been the same since. Just like every first time mother before me, my life turned from being selfish to selfless. My needs were put on the back burner and my child got 100% of me. I only slept when he was sleeping. I ate when he was not needing me, I fed him when he was hungry. we stayed in if he wasn’t up to going out.
Just recently God has placed a budding new role in my heart. My role from being my sons whole world will soon change.
I was watching my husband with his mom the other day and realized that one day my son might go a whole week without even talking to me on the phone or in person. What? as a mother of a toddler who wont leave her side so she can have a bathroom break this seems impossible. One day I will have to arrange a good time to visit my son? Such a strange concept. Of course it is. My son is so new to this world and needs all the guidance and support and love that he can possibly get. But how do I make the transition from being his WHOLE WORLD to sitting on the side lines?
Being the type of person who does not like to be caught off guard I decided to do a little research and look into this topic. My husband and my goals as parents to our children is to raise them up to be adults who are confident, competent, loving, hard working, God fearing, independent, honest human beings. How do we get there? How do we ensure that they can rely on us as parents but also make their own decisions. How do I put aside what my dreams are for them to help support their own dreams. How do I make the transition from Coach to the sidelines?
What are some ways that I can allow my role as their protector, provider, and caregiver slowly start to fade to supporter, confidant, and cheerleader?
1. Allow them to make mistakes – Let them fall. Let them stumble. Let them say the wrong thing and don’t jump in right away. Basically just practice sitting on the sidelines. Let everything you have been teaching them be put into practice. Now don’t stray too far. Stay with in ear shot/arms length in the beginning so you can help them through a tough spot or pick them up when they hurt themselves. But the point is. Let me try. by witnessing their strengths and weaknesses it will allow you as a parent to know what area your child might need help in. Then you can accommodate opportunities to practice.
2. Answering any and all their questions honestly – oh man this one is hard. My son asks the most embarrassing questions. As his mother I aim to tell him the truth. We use the correct language when referring to body parts and watch our facial expressions as we explain something that we find embarrassing to discuss. We tell the truth about how vegetables aren’t always delicious but man are they jam packed with vitamins that help our bodies grow. He is starting to notice different body types and now is also having questions as to why some of his friends do not have a mom or dad who live in their home. He is very observant and has been since his first day on this earth. We make sure that we do not give him too much information in our answers that would one day require greater explanation but we do make sure we give some sort of answer. When I am stumped as to how to answer a question I tell him; “let me ask daddy. Mommy isn’t sure how to answer that best.” He soon forgets the question but I then write it down and “Google it” when he has gone to bed. I am sure to answer it again when he gets up in the morning.
3. Create a “Village” – My children have their own personalities. They are individuals so different from each other and even from their own parents. As they grow up they will pick who their best friends are and will be drawn to a certain type of person. We all have our types who we are most attracted to. Both physically and personality as in a spouse and capability wise as we find in a best friend or person whom we can confide in. Our goal as a family is to create a group of people surrounding my children who we love and trust and who our children can learn to love and trust as well. Maybe my son will find a best friend in an aunt or uncle or grandparent who will help mold him into the Man he is to become. He may not want or feel he can tell us everything but my prayer is that there is some one who he trusts that he can share those things. Some one who will direct him to God. Someone who will come along side him and pray with him and help him through his situation or answer his questions.
4. Play with them – I find my children open up more with me when I just sit and play and put parenting on the sidelines. parenting obviously slips out now and then as they make decisions that disrupt our play by taking their siblings toy or knocking over their tower, but for the most part I just play. I mimic their play so they feel in control of the situation and less like I control every aspect of their lives. If you ask my son what his favorite thing about mommy is I am sure you would get ” she lets me knock down her towers”. It is kind of unfortunate that the thing that takes the least amount of energy is his favorite thing about me. I make all his favorite foods, take him on long walks to the park, buy him ice cream and hot chocolate,create crafts, take him swimming, go on adventures into the forest, host play dates, take him camping, let him paint and play play dough, build forts, watch movies, bake cookies with him, let him help in every aspect of making dinner. All those take so much energy and preparation but they are not what he holds most dear. He enjoys getting to play with me. Getting to know me through play is important to him. He opens up with me and shares his silly ideas and feels comfortable to be completely himself when we are playing. Who wouldn’t love that? This also allows me to take a back seat for a while. I can practice letting him take the lead. I have no agenda when I sit down to play with him. I make sure I have at least 20 minutes of time blocked off from all distractions. No laundry, dishes, cooking, or phone calls during my play time with my children.
5. Leave them – This one is the hardest for me. It is one that has been on my heart a lot lately. Taking time for my self, my friends, and most importantly my marriage. Schedule date nights. Go out for dinner with a friend. Go out for coffee with just you and a good book. Do activities that you love. In this way I am learning to not just find my identity in my role as a mother but also in my other interests and strengths and relationships. This will help in the transition of letting my children go. As dependent as my children are on me I do not want to then become dependent on them. It started with it just being my husband and I and one day it will (God willing) just be the two of us again. This also allows our children to form relationships with other caregivers. My parents frequent our house in the role as baby sitters and the children love every moment they spend with Opa and Nana. This helps create our Village and cultivate those relationships. This one is hard at first but has slowly become my favorite 🙂
These are just a few of the ways I am starting to “let go” of my children. I know it kind of contradicts a post I posted a while ago about how I wont let my children go. But people are always changing and so are children. Their needs and wants change daily. As much as I do not want to let my children go I also need to remember that I am raising adults. So letting them go slowly and gradually is healthy and necessary to have a well rounded grown up. I don’t think i can leave them over night yet (although with all this waking up because of being sick, I may be ready soon) I am learning how to slowly let them go.
Parenting is hard. It is also a little overwhelming. Nope. Its a lot overwhelming. It is a learning experience and I am trying to be the best student I can be.