Recent family events and dynamics have caused me to ponder quite deeply, and pray as fervently, for answers to the question of “At what point do you let them go?” We’ve been parents for close to 24 years now, and our oldest daughter is within six weeks of her wedding. The tension, to say the least, has been intense.
A new acquaintance, unrelated to our current circumstances, posed this question to her parents. “Did you ever feel the need to counsel us before we married?” Her question was valid. Her parents felt it was not their position to counsel, and it was good for their children to make their own mistakes. Huh? Until a recent conversation with my own father, I thought they were out in left field. Apparently, at least for that generation of parents, this is a common belief. Because he was hurt by the decisions of some of my sisters, he now feels quite strongly that we do not provide counsel, and must let them make their own mistakes. I can’t say that I quite agree. So far my life has been spent helping our children learn about what the dangers are and how to avoid them.
Our choice to use family centered home education stemmed not just from a desire to provide a healthy alternative to the current system of releasing our children into a system bent on molding them into a factory model, but also from a deep desire to share in their development. We both wanted to allow them to mature at their own pace, with their own interests, to broaden their worlds beyond the politics at the local PTA meeting, or the sidelines of the t-ball game.
My own efforts to provide counsel to our children have sometimes proven to be sad occasions for confrontation. In part, I do believe this is society at its schizophrenic best, telling parents to be parents, all the while urging children to ignore them. We are told to stay within arm’s reach for toddlers in the water, but then to be the bank financing a wild evening out for prom night. My mind often flips back to a Star Trek episode of a society that was required to push their young adults into the streets at night for an evening of “Festival” because this is what society insists on. We resist.
There is such a cacophony of voices competing for our adult children. They want to experience the world and life, we want to help them be wise. My father counseled me to allow them to make their own mistakes. Well, I certainly made many of my own, but knowing how much potential harm I managed to avoid by sheer dumb luck, my heart tells me to still provide counsel.
Though my counsel has been taken in with ears that didn’t hear what I said, I still need to be that mentor. The heart does strange things to conversations between mothers and daughters. We speak, as mothers, our daughters ignore as young wild things wanting to be free. As mothers we see the dangers, while our daughters see only freedom. They see the honey, we see the bees.
So, once again I am asking, as what point do we let go? Or can we ever really let go? What we desire is success in attaining heaven for all our children. At least, this is what I want. The world, instead, wants our children to leave the nest, say good riddance, and then slam into the wall. When they do, rest assured the world will be there pointing fingers back at the mothers and fathers who it will claim didn’t care enough for their young ones to guard and protect them.
We have seldom listened to the world in areas conventional and taken its wisdom as wise. So, here, too, I must insist that our job as mothers (and fathers) does not magically end when our children become adults. However, I do understand there is a time when stepping aside will come. My only question is, when? I suspect it will continue to be a balancing act of respecting our emerging adult children, and spending plenty of time on my knees in prayer.
So, my dear children, if I foresee danger, rest assured I will speak. But, also know that while you live your life as God intends, I will refrain from trying to right my own wrongs by being heavy handed in my approach. May God remain in your thoughts, and may your guardian angels remain vigilant!