The Art of Letting Go: Releasing Your Child From Your Own Expectations
As parents, we all want the best for our children. But is the best version of we want...what they want?
A not-so-common question. Is what you want for your child, what they actually want? How do we even determine such a thing? And once we do figure it out, how do we make peace with the fact that their wants may be different than our own?
While this is geared towards parents with younger children, it is also appropriate for those adults who have older or adult children. Being a parent is a lifelong journey, and it doesn't matter how old your kid is - as their parent, you always do want the best for them. What you may not realize, as their parent, is that you may be clinging to ideals, values, or a lifestyle that your children do not desire for themselves.
It's absolutely essential to teach your child a sort of moral code - don't get me wrong here.
No parent wants to raise the next Ted Bundy, Robert Pickton, or Jane Toppan. Rest assured - most children won't grow up to be these sorts of people.
Change Your Mindset - Freedom of Choice
Being a parent is a beautiful thing. Whether you birth a child, adopt a child, foster a child, or have another sort of parent/guardian relationship with a child, being a parent is a large responsibility. The physical, financial, emotional, and mental care that is expected of you as a parent is astronomical. No one is disputing that.
But parenthood is a choice. A very big choice, but a choice nonetheless. If you are choosing to become a parent, you are choosing to become one of the largest influences in another human being's life. You are choosing to have another little human being in your space, regardless of how said child got there - natural birth, adoption, fostering, or otherwise. You are choosing to raise that child with your own best capabilities. You are choosing to provide the best opportunities you can for that child. And, when the time comes, you are choosing to let that child go. That is what parenthood means. Many parents become stuck in the stage of care and provision, and this is part of what makes it so difficult to let go of a child, as they grow. Now we come to the hard part - releasing your child from your own expectations.
Something many parents don't realize, until perhaps their child is entering the famed teenage years, is that this is a fully autonomous human being, (hopefully) completely capable of making (some of) their own decisions. What is often difficult to come to terms with is this idea. This is more of a mindset change than anything else. As a parent, this is part of the journey - realizing that you birthed (perhaps), raised, and cared for this little human once upon a time, who has their own preferences, likes and dislikes, pet peeves, and who has now grown into their own individuality.
The stages of parenting, just like any other sort of life journey, can be long and arduous at times. They can be joyful and sweet at others. The thing is, though, that none of these stages are permanent. Each stage of parenting is beautiful in its' own right - don't get stuck in one because you are afraid to move on to the next one. Life is not a race - of course it's not - so take the time with your little ones while they are little. Take the moments of appreciation you get from your teenagers. Take the hours they may spend with you as young adults, with their own lives. Take the life achievements, the milestones, and the celebrations.
And instead of hanging on so tightly to those things, and trying to relive those moments, take pride in knowing that you have (hopefully) raised a child who is (hopefully) genuinely content with their lives. There is no greater accomplishment.
That's the key here. Part of learning to let go of your expectations for your child's future involves your own recognition, as a parent, that you must trust them to make their own decisions, of what makes them genuinely happy. When you value your child's level of contentment with themselves and their decisions, over your own - that is when you have learned the art of letting go.
A Final Thought
I once was having a conversation with someone, about something completely unrelated to this subject. He said something, though, that made me stop and think. I've never looked at anything the same since.
"Appreciate the beauty of the thing, while knowing, with absolute certainty, that it is only temporary."
Applied to the different stages of parenting, it is very much appropriate. While being a parent is a beautiful, and often thankless, job, it's important to appreciate each stage as it happens, recognizing that it is only a temporary moment in time.
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