Hard to believe, but it seems to be the season of school starting again, meaning getting up before the sun, school drop-off, new teachers and friends, and saying goodbye to your kiddos as they leave.
Kids aren’t mean to be in our arms forever.
We can’t hold them tight and protect them from everything new and uncomfortable. We’ve got to let them go, spread their wings, learn to make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. One day, they actually have to be adults and make big decisions and be responsible. Some days, I’m wondering if I will ever grow up.
And I remind my kids, when I give them a big task, that this is “Man Training.” Like it or not, they gotta be ready.
But as parents, when that child leaves for the first day of kindergarten, or camp, or Vacation Bible School, possibly with tears in their eyes and quivering bottom lip (I dealt with this earlier today), we need to have some tools in our belt to let our kids go.
Here are my 5 Ways to Make Letting Go Easier.
This works every time. Seriously, if you have never bribed your kid, you are lying to yourself or you are too good to be reading this blog. Just keepin’ it real. If taking that first step of independence is rough, promise something fun later. This morning, the promise of popsicles was the magic ticket to drying up those heartbreaking tears.
2- Treat Yourself
If you are brave enough to let go and watch your child step bravely into that uncomfortable new world, then treat yourself. For me, a muffin and cappuccino did much to soothe my own rocky emotions.
3- Imagine Down the Road
If your emotions are playing tug-of-war with your heart, and you want to cave in, and keep your child from that necessary discomfort, then imagine them living with you when they are 30 years old, unable to take care of themselves, keep a job, or make that peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or preferably something a little more grown up). It’s ok to let them go.
4- Visualize Together
Talk about what fun being grown up will be (leave out the part about bills and all things related to reality)- focus on their freedoms, choices, individuality- and how they will be able to be what they want to be. It takes steps of bravery to get to that point.
5- Growing Up Doesn’t Mean Grown Up
Just because they are stepping out into the world doesn’t mean that they don’t need reassurance that the safety net of home is still there. Snuggle up with a good book, go out for ice cream, or play a game together. Sit and talk. The best way to be brave is for the kids to know that home is still home, with a parent who is willing to nurture, coach and be a cheerleader when the time is right.
It’s a privilege to have these little ones in our home. And as much as I crave my freedom with the rest of you, it breaks my heart to send them away, whether it’s to school, camp, boarding school or college. I can’t imagine what my parents went through when I left for boarding school 3,000 miles from home, or college 10,000 miles from home. But I’m glad they let me spread my wings. I’m pretty sure they drank a lot of cappuccinos to reward themselves for taking such a difficult step. And now it’s my turn.
Fly away, little ones. I’ll be here with popsicles when you come back.