“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.
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?