Declarations of Independence: Learning to Loosen the Grasp in Parenting

I'm a recovering helicopter parent.

I'll admit, I once was that mother who wanted to fix everything, make sure my kid was never hurt and manage all affairs. But once your kids grow up (or you have more than one kid), you realize that tactic just ain't gonna cut it.

I felt like I've spent most of my mothering years pushing independence and carefully watching every step. As my oldest son is moving into the teen years, the more I have to let the reigns go. The more I let go, I see that he's actually able to handle himself in the world without my constant navigation. Liberating for him. Frightening for me.

Recently, my son auditioned for the lead role in the school musical. Instead of being excited, I was scared out of my wits for him because lead roles normally got to upperclassmen, not middle schoolers. So I prepared him by telling him not to be disappointed when he didn't land the role and to expect that students who are older and graduating will be chosen to star. He didn't let my warnings sway him. Even after he was named an understudy for the lead role instead of landing the part, he wasn't discouraged.

His dedication amazed me. He made sure he knew his lines in the event he'd be given a shot at the role at one of the three performances. I held my breath knowing he'd never get a chance. Then one day after school, he leaped into the car with exciting news: "I get to do the Sunday performance!" An exhale of relief.

Then the kicker. He added that another student told him that the only reason he got the role was because they suggested to the teacher to give him a chance. My son took it upon himself to go to the teacher to ask if he'd been given the role because of the insistence of this other student. Her reply: "No, it was my choice alone. I saw your hard work and you've earned that role."

The budding (and very independent) rising star.

The budding (and very independent) rising star.

What maturity on his part. At his age, I would have never thought to take such a bold move. Instead of going back to the student who told my son he helped him land the role, my son simply kept the news to himself. Even when others mentioned it to him, he didn't say a word. 

It's a remarkable thing to watch your child handle a tricky situation with grace and maturity. I'm learning that the best way to help my kids grow wings is to simply let go. As I watch them flap unsteadily, I'm tempted to grab them back into the nest, but I know that won't serve them well.

It's natural for parents to want a child to shine and stand on their own to feet. But the only way for kids to gain their independence is to step back, let them be the star of their own show when it's necessary and let them take a bow when they nail it.