There I was curled up in the chair, tears streaming down. A certain five year old came, cupped my face and said, “It’s ok, Mommy.” She ran for a box of tissues and emptied it one by one on my lap. The tears flowed seamlessly for awhile as she sat and wrapped her Kindergarten arms around me.
I’ve been thinking about something for some time now. I wonder about the ways we approach parenting, the concept of a family unit. Regrettably, in the beginning I thought my kids were mine. I thought they were a reflection of me, an extension of me. I thought I was in charge over them. But as they grow and I’m passing through my decade of diapers and into stages of growing independence, I realize this. My children merely passed through me. That is all.
When you are weak and grieving, devastated or just mildly discouraged, your children are surprisingly their own human. They have the ability to teach you, to comfort you, to be present with you.
When you’re curled up in a chair in the corner of the room hoping they won’t see you, you are perhaps partly embarrassed that you can’t take care of them. Perhaps the guilt begins to surface. Am I failing them? Maybe that’s exactly what you need to experience to fully embrace…taking care if them isn’t your actual job. Facilitating them taking care of themselves is your actual job. Releasing them to be their own person outside of any pretense or control is the most valuable environment you can facilitate. (And releasing them to God might be part of this letting go too.)
As I hold on to the second decade of parenting, I have my moments. What will they be?Gosh, I hope they are kind. But in fact, their future is certain: they will be adults and their life will be their own.
If this is hitting you hard and you’re breathing deeply, I’m right there with you forcing myself to accept this reality. Grief is full of lessons.
Here’s what I’m learning:
My five year old desperately wanted to wear a navy blue fuzzy jacket to school with her yellow shirt and flowery skirt. Well, it’s not what I would have chosen. The days are full of choices and so many of them I hate admitting I try to control. “No, sweetie, that doesn’t match.” I catch myself saying when, if I’m being completely honest, I’m thinking, “That will be so ugly on Instagram Stories. Can’t post that one.”
Give your kids choices when it doesn’t actually matter.* They are desperate to have you see their preferences as a reflection of who they are becoming.
*Disclaimer: don’t have them choose between a lollipop and a vegetable. They would never eat a vegetable. Have them choose between broccoli or carrots for dinner. Some choices keep them safe and healthy, so focus on choices that especially don’t matter. “Hi sweet girl, do you want the blue plate or the purple one?” Resist the temptation to control anything.
Children are innately and deeply creative. Left to their own devices, they can imagine any game or scenario. The work of their life is play. Try your best not to interrupt creative play. As long as they are safe and not destructive, let them live in the land of make believe without an adult disruption.* Carve into your day space to let them breathe without rushing to the next scheduled activity. In fact, feel free to drop activities so they can have more time to create- at home, outside. Be near but not intrusive.
*Disclaimer: a two year old’s creativity is at times destructive. Don’t blame me for crayons on the wall in the name of independent creative play. It’s all part of the journey. Take it in stride.
I’m grieving a bit less now than I did last year. I’m letting the kids’ infectious joy and precious sense of adventure sweep me away. Isn’t it amazing how naturally joyful God made children? I’m letting them bring me tissues and wipe my tears as they empty the box one by one, sweetly. I’m letting my humanity in this season be a reminder that they are capable of so much more than I give them credit for and I’m merely the bystander in their passage to adulthood.
For more of Brooke’s big ideas on home, family and motherhood… check out her Amazon Bestseller “This Thing Called Home” available in ebook and paperback. This Thing Called Home by Brooke Sailer