the hardest part of love

“You cannot close the acorn once the oak begins to grow

And you cannot close your heart to what it fears and needs to know

That the hardest part of love….is the letting go…”

 From the song “Hardest Part of Love” from Stephen Schwartz’ musical Children of Eden

As they say, kids don’t come with user manuals…and even if you prep yourself for motherhood by reading books and listening to parenting tips from others, until you’re there, in the trenches, doing it day in and day out, you cannot imagine the immense joy…and sheer terror…it can bring.

At a friends’ birthday party the other night, a new mom was talking about the difficulties of dealing with a new baby, figuring out their needs, the sleepless nights, the worry about whether you’re “doing it right”…and I commented that I’ve been “doing this mom thing” for five and a half years and still don’t know what I’m doing.  I was sort of being funny…but mostly serious.  I am not a confident mom.  I have a lot of doubt in myself, my abilities, and I worry.  What if I do my best, and still it’s not “good enough?”

Recently some of the other Quad City Moms Blog bloggers were planning a playdate together.  They were all very excited but I was sweating.  The simple word “playdate” gets my heart beating faster and makes nervous feelings in my stomach.  Why am I so averse to these types of gatherings?  I love people.  I’m outgoing.  Why can I not “let go” and allow my children the time to spend playing with other children and meeting new friends?  Why would I rather stay in our own backyard and let them play with the same 6 toys night after night instead of trying something new for once?

Last weekend we went to the Farmer’s Market and our son and daughter were playing on the playground.  I watched the way other parents stood talking around the perimeter of the playground, conversing in a relaxed manner with each other, and the way their children ran up to them if they need something.  And what was I doing?  Circling, flitting, in “hover mode” as my husband calls it.  I constantly knew where my son was….and was moving with him around the playground, never losing sight, and probably within arm’s reach within two seconds if he came into some peril.  Why couldn’t I just relax?  Maybe sit on the bench and chat like all those other parents?  Why couldn’t I lose sight of him for just a few seconds, and trust that he’d still be climbing on the jungle gym?

In all of these examples of my actual life that I’ve just shared with you, I realize what the underlying problem is…I have a need to be in control and kids are usually spontaneous, sometimes unpredictable, prone to mood swings, and occasionally out of control.  There are days that I wonder, “Was I really meant to be a mother?”  How can I teach my children to be brave, creative, independent, self-reliant people if I am constantly breathing down their necks, afraid of what they might do, say, or what may happen to them?  Is it possible that a fearful, controlling, perfectionist mother can let go and allow her children to become the amazing little people they were meant to become?

I spin myself into such a fuss so much of the time that I don’t enjoy the simple moments with my family.  I’m too worried about making things perfect or safe or whatever I’m trying to make them.  I need to trust, have faith, and simply let go.

Letting Go

Here are six specific things I’m going to try to be intentional about:

1)      Let my child make a choice and whatever their choice, it is “OK.”

2)      Make a devoted time each day to play, reading, tickling, or whatever my child wants to do….devoid of distractions.

3)      Give my child responsibilities so that he can be “in charge” of some important tasks.

4)      Go on a playdate.  Put aside my fear of being in a group of other moms and kids…it can’t be that bad, can it?

5)      Get messy.  Allow my kids to play with dirty/messy things, and don’t cringe about it.  We’ve got a washing machine, and the joy in their faces is priceless.

6)      Breathe.  Something so simple, and yet I often need to remind myself of this one.

What tips and tricks do you have for this mama who needs some help letting go?

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3 Responses to the hardest part of love

  1. Michelle July 31, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    I often feel the exact same way I have an 18m old and 5mo old and with my 18m old I never let her down or be free, I’m so afraid she wont be perfect and I often question myself why I need her to be perfect? she’s 18 months old! She’s going to run off and mess up but even if she wouldnt run off, ect… I wont ever know because I don’t give her a chance. I am working on changing this. Ty for this post it’s nice to see others struggle with the similar issues.

  2. Sara July 31, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    I love this post, Emily! Mostly because I know you and know that you are such a great mama, but yet you still feel like you are struggling! Why do we do that?! I am the complete opposite of a “helicopter” mom, but yet I still feel your pain. I OFTEN get the stink eye from other moms on the playground because I “let” my little one climb, explore, struggle, fall, etc. This type of parenting has been bread into me. I often hear my mom say, “let her figure it out” or “if she falls, she falls, and she will learn how to not fall next time.” And although I tend to parent more along those lines, I don’t think everyone feels the same way- and that is where, even though I’m on the opposite page as you, I also feel “different” from the other parents. The point? You are not alone in feeling that playground anxiety. Even us, “park bench sitters” feel like we have no clue what we are doing! Thanks for sharing, Emily!!

  3. Amanda July 31, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    I’m a park bench sitter like Sara. But I totally understand what you mean, Emily. I used to hover over them. I probably still would but there are too many to keep track of and I gave up. They will figure it out. But as I am sitting on the park bench I do eye checks, like every so often (but it used to be every other second), to make sure I haven’t lost anyone. It was really hard at first, but the more you practice the easier it gets. AND I get a little reading and writing done now on these little outings. bonus! And to those stink eye parents…well, I spend ALL DAY and Everyday with these kids, leave me alone. ;p
    And this whole breathing thing…I forget too. On the way to the Family Museum I was super stressed, I had six kids with me, and I really wanted to back out. I started intentionally taking deep calming breaths and it all turned out ok for the most part. I only lost Collin once for like 2 minutes and he turned up with the big kids.

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