It’s tough to let your child find their own way in life, but the secret is to love and let go. Xan reflects on the importance of stepping back and supporting your child as they become their own person.
Kahlil Gibran writes,
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
When my husband and I had become parents for the first time, and as I marvelled at the tiny little person in my arms, I knew that she was going to have both wonderful and difficult experiences in her life, and that many of them, if not most, would be out of my control. For this reason I chose to use Gibran’s beautiful quote at my eldest daughter’s baptism.
As a parent, you are the archer’s bow, and your child is the arrow. You can point the arrow in the right direction, draw back with power, and send the arrow flying towards the bull’s eye – but just as the wind might interfere and steer the arrow toward a slightly different target, so life happens, and your child can end up reaching for their own goal. And in my opinion, that is how it should be.
In many cases, however, we tend to put a lot of pressure on our children, which is not a bad thing, but it becomes problematic when the goal we pressure them towards is something they don’t want at all. For example – what is the point in forcing your child to go to soccer practice each week when they can’t stand the sport and would rather be playing guitar?
There is no manual for parenting, and we do what we think is best for our child. But sometimes the best thing we can do is to let them discover their own passion, and support them on the path they choose, as long as this path is constructive, as well as mentally and emotionally fulfilling.
Your Child has Dreams of their Own
Failure. It is the one word I never understood. It is the one word I do not use, because I cannot relate to it in any way. Why would we ever want our children to feel like failures?
What is failure other than not achieving what you set out for yourself, or more commonly, not living up to someone else’s expectations – those of a parent, guardian, mentor, or teacher? Are our children failures when they are not good at school? Are they failures when they get fired? Are they failures when they decide to date someone we disapprove of?
Should we not make sure that we, as guardians, do our very best to make our child’s own dreams come true, rather than forcing our own dreams onto them? We cannot expect our children to live out our lost dreams, or perform on any lesser level than what we consider good enough. Without a doubt, all of us had moments when our decision went against what our parents wanted.
We should aim to enhance our child’s talents, and emphasise the fact that it is okay to be different, and that it’s okay to have their own opinions. We all know with age comes wisdom, but let them explore their paths; let them make mistakes – they only learn if they actually walk the path themselves. Teach them independence, but always keep the safety net ready.
Here is a beautiful take on the importance of unconditional love, and learning to accept and support our children no matter who they are, or what they want to make of their lives.
It is and always has been very hard for me to let go of my 3 young adult daughters.
To me, letting go means accepting that my child is ‘big’ enough to make their own decisions and take responsibility for their choices and mistakes. It also means realising that they are able to conjure motivation and drive for their own successes.
To let go means accepting that my child has other ideas of how life works (than I do). A parent cannot and should not aim to ‘control’ their children’s behaviour and choices in adulthood. Your kids should be able to stand on their own feet.
Don’t slave for your children and try to take over every aspect of their life. Yes, you are older and have more life experience, but just like you, they need to learn and experience on their own. Let them do things for themselves, and be there for them as a support. It’s about allowing kids to get skilled for life. You are still there as a support, but from the sideline.
Allow your children to feel comfortable to discuss any matter and topic with you, knowing that they come to you for your opinion and advice – whether this is to help make a big decision, or personal issues, or whatever else. If they don’t want your help, and choose to make their decisions entirely on their own, let them. If the decision turns out to be unwise, then they will learn that lesson. Life is not meant to happen with perfection – how boring would that be?
Letting go has been and still is a process, and involves a lot of time, patience, and reflection. I try my best to let go of my kids – and it’s not easy. I too catch myself being controlling. But I trust that in the end, the skills we have taught them will prevail. They will make their ways, like we all did.
My motto has always been for my children to do their absolute best. That way, the only reason for them to feel guilty or bad about not achieving something is because they know, for themselves, they could have done better. It is not for me to determine their goals. I may very well give my opinion and encouragement – and of course it’s good to set the bar high, but at the end of the day, it’s not up to me. My children are not my possession. I cannot rule their lives.
To me, no child is ever a failure. There is no failure. Even when a child is troubled. There are usually substantial reasons – and in cases where there don’t appear to be any, it comes down to the same principle: we have to love and let go. We cannot be responsible for every choice our child makes.
I feel a parent’s door should always be open, not for rescue, but for support.
What More Could We Want?
One of my daughters recently asked me whether I’d be happier if she ended up settling down in South Africa or abroad. Although my children’s living in different countries would be an emotional amputation for me, my answer was simply,
“Wherever you are happy. If you are happy, what right do I have to demand that you do anything differently?”
Life is great and what more could a parent wish for than a healthy child who is proud to be themselves, no matter what life that may mean to them, and no matter whether it conflicts with our own beliefs.
Love and nurture your child unconditionally, and the rest will follow.
Being supportive of your child is one of the most valuable roles a parent can fulfil. It isn’t always easy, especially if you watch your child make bad decisions, or mistakes, or when things just don’t go as planned. Have a look at this article to find out some of the ways in which a parent can deal with their child’s struggles, in particular when the child is failing in school or varsity.