It’s easy to want my kids to be “my” little people — to do what I want, hope, ask them to do (and without boatloads of questions would be nice!).
It’s not that I want them to be automatons or mini-Robins. Being a mini-me is no fun for anyone (I’ve tried to be mini other people and it didn’t go so well so I don’t want that). However, I have lived more life and have had more experiences. And wisdom can come from experience. And I want the best for them. And I have ideas about how I think that looks.
And — I’m going to stop here to highlight the last line for myself: “And I have ideas about how I think that looks.”
“…I have ideas…I think…”
The ideas may be great and spot on (certainly in my eyes!). My kids may find them useful at some point (I’ve found much of the guidance I remember getting from my parents actually useful as the years have gone on). And — they are my ideas.
They are not their ideas.
With Lexie home this summer after a year of college, it’s really reminded me that she is her own person. Yes, she is and will always be our kiddo. AND: She is her own person. Her life is her own to be messily human with, especially as she has hit the magical yet non-magical age of 18. This is something I’m needing to remind myself of periodically. Part of my own growing up as a person and a parent (the learning never ends, does it?) is acknowledging this and allowing space for her to have her own thoughts and opinions and ideas, and space to try.
I’m working to stretch my mind by reading books and articles and talking to other parents (and her, too), and I’m continuing to learn and be reminded that this is not about letting her or her siblings do whatever they want while footing the bill (learning to manage their finances in the adult world means actually being responsible for and starting to buy things for themselves, with their own money!). It’s not about researching details for them to try and “help” when a question comes up, something is lost, or they are not sure where to go (if we want them to become self-sufficient, space to try on their own (when they are ready and willing to put in the effort, which may be at a different time than we might like!) is required…and yes, some stumbling and pain may occur as part of the learning process — and that’s okay for both of us).
It’s also not about throwing up our hands, giving up the responsibility of parenting, and never voicing concerns, ideas, or opinions either.
I’m thinking it’s more about listening to our kids and asking them thoughtful questions and then shutting up so they can answer first (I’m really working on this). It’s about talking with our partners, spouses, and trusted fellow parents and family about what is going great and what might be less so, and then what are some ideas for ways to help tomorrow go differently than today if today kind of sucked. It’s also about listening to ourselves, getting honest about if we’re giving advice because we want them to do it “our” way, or if we are really and truly concerned and want to voice that concern, though with no strings attached, knowing (however difficult it may be to remember sometimes) that their decisions are their own — and how sometimes the best learning comes from trying on one’s own.
And then showing up tomorrow to human (and parent) again, messily — and beautifully (because beauty comes hand and hand with the messiness).