When To Let Go As Parents
A lesson on independence and letting go
I have a two-year-old daughter, Cora. She’s outgoing, funny, smart, and fiercely independent. Last week on the way to “school” at our neighbor’s house, we walked down the front steps. She is at the point where she doesn’t hold my hand going down the steps anymore, asking just to use the railing instead.
As she teetered down the steps while counting each one, she turned around and looked at me. Smiled. Then reached for the lunchbox and backpack I was holding for her.
“Mama, Cora hold,” she stated as her eyes met mine.
I helped her put on the world’s tiniest backpack and tightened the straps (with just one Pete the Cat book inside, as well as a few of her favorite construction trucks). Then she took the tiny lunchbox into her hands as well.
Cora: “Mama, Cora do it.”
I took a step forward, not fully understanding what she meant. She put her hand up, repeating:
“Mama, you stay. Cora do it.”
I realized she wanted to walk to “school” by herself.
Me: “Cora, do you want help?”
Cora: “No, Cora do it.”
Me: “Do you want me to hold your hand?”
Cora: “No, Cora do it.”
And I walked a few steps behind her as my baby girl walked to “school” by herself.
Independence. It is what we want for our kids, but can be such a hard pill to swallow. We want them to be courageous and brave, but when it actually happens, are we ready for it? When they are ready to let go, are we?
It’s a hard lesson in parenting and learning, but a really important one. We need our kids to feel comfortable enough to let go of our hands and try things solo, whether it is a toddler walking to a neighbor’s house or a teenager driving on their first solo beach trip. But it makes our heart skip a beat. We realize our kids won’t always need us. Who will help them if they fall? If something happens unexpectedly? If they need to change a flat tire or run out of money or do not know how to proceed on their pre-calculus homework?
But then—isn’t that the point? We scaffold and support our kids until they are comfortable enough to do it by themselves, to take hold of the lunchbox, and to walk alone. It’s our job to let go of their hands.
Independence. Beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.
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