In my career as a Mom, I have walked a fine line in knowing when to be hands-on and when to be hands-off. When to push and when to back off and let them try for themselves.
When my children were babies, I naturally did so many things for them. I fed them, changed their diapers, soothed them, kept them warm and comfortable. When they were toddlers, I would help with a push on the swing or by encouraging them to reach for a toy on the shelf. When they became school-age, pushes came in the form of “listen to your teacher” and “pay attention.”
As they continue to grow, the ways in which I push them continue to change.
This transition hasn’t always been easy for me. While they may have been ready to do certain things themselves, I haven’t always been willing to give up my role (read: control freak).
I knew I needed to let go of some of the perfection that comes with taking on and doing all the things. While challenging for me, it gave my kids the opportunity to step up and learn how to take care of themselves and be responsible for some of the things that they were perfectly capable of doing on their own.
We started with simple things like packing their own lunch, clearing the dishes they ate from, and helping to sort the laundry. From there, we moved on to instituting a family cleaning hour every week, where my oldest vacuums while my youngest first cleans up the toys and then dusts all the furniture at his level. Mommy and Daddy work right alongside them doing the more challenging chores. It is a team effort.
While I can’t say that they embrace this idea and that I don’t need to lovingly nudge them to participate, they know that it is the expectation and that we are all in it together. That expectation that I am setting with chores, translates into the life lesson that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do.
Most recently, my oldest has been struggling in school to learn his multiplication tables. Like many kids his age, he’d much rather be playing video games, riding his bike or doing anything else, really. It requires a lot of effort that he just doesn’t want to put in. While we keep explaining to him that it will make school so much easier if he would just invest the time in learning them, he fights it every step of the way. I’d love to be able to tell him to just forget about it and not worry, but, as a parent, this is a battle I have to fight. I have to push him. And this is where the life lesson comes in. Just like with family cleaning hour, sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do.
This fall, he’s entering Middle School. A new school, new set of expectations, new responsibilities, and a whole slew of things that he will have to do, but doesn’t necessarily want to do. Is it scary? Heck yeah! But by pushing him now, we are setting him up with the tools he needs to prioritize and self-motivate. We are no longer pushing him on the swing, we are pushing him to new heights and new successes. We are shaping him and molding him to be an independent, responsible, and dependable adult.
There comes a time, Mamas, when we have pushed all that we can. When we send them out into the world and hope that our voice is reflected in their inner voice. When we pray that they make all the right decisions on their own. And when that time comes, only one question remains, “Will we be ready to let go?”