Forcing Your Kids To Grow Up
First off, I'm not advocating neglect here. That's a different post about teaching your kids to feed themselves and work the DVD player so you can sleep in on Sundays.
But what I am talking about is actually letting your kids spread their highly uncoordinated wings to learn how to fly on their own. Me saying that sounds a lot like hypocrisy because I'll be the first to tell my children "I'm going to stop feeding you this week so you don't grow taller" followed shortly thereafter by a phrase that sounds a lot like "Sure, Danny. You can live in your childhood bedroom until you're 37. That's fine."
When they use the phrase "helicopter parent," they are referring to me. I'm the mom on the sidelines coaching my kid on the soccer field. I'm the parent scripting every hour the kids spend with a babysitter. In grocery stores, my boys automatically know the phrase "Hands on!" means "Grab the cart now so I don't lose you (or my marbles) in public". It runs so deep that my oldest asks permission to go to the bathroom. In his own house.
Over the last year or so, I've been slowly letting my kids explore the world without me. This came with some gentle pushing and support on the part of my boyfriend at the time along the realization that their freedom equals more space for me. He saw me pulling my hair out as a result of my trying to control their every move and began gently suggesting ways to loosen my grip.
"When you visit a restaurant you go to often and the boys feel comfortable in, let them go to the bathroom alone."
"Mikey is old enough to spend time at the playground without you running interference with other kids."
"Danny doesn't need you to put his shoes on. He can figure that out."
And while that relationship didn't last, his advice and support did. And so did the stress relief. The kids are managing and dealing with the ramifications of their own actions now when otherwise I'd be orchestrating their every interaction with the world.
Mikey has grown more confident and capable in the last year as a near-seven-year-old boy than I probably was in college. Danny sees the universe as this ever-evolving playground, both entertaining and educating himself without my guidance. And I'm growing less anxious with every outing, allowing myself the chance to sit back without the pressure to actively parent my children, tethering me to their hips.
Inherently, I recognize that the likelihood they'll get hurt increases as they get older and bolder and I should in probably be hovering to ensure their safety. But that's part of growing apart is also part of growing up. And as it turns out, their growing up is helping me grow up.