“Remember to ask your teacher about your project when you get to school,” I said.
“Why can’t you just email her?” she asked.
I could have, and the truth was, it would have been easier.
“Because you need to learn to handle things on your own,” I replied.
“But I’m only 11,” she said; she did not want to handle things on her own.
“I know honey, but you’re almost 12,” I said, “It’s time to spread your wings a little.”
Though they sometimes resist, I am often nudging my growing girls to do things on their own. I am striving to teach them to be responsible. I want to help them spread their wings.
When my girls were young, I found the steps for doing this to be fairly intuitive. I encouraged each child as she learned to walk, potty-trained her, taught her how to get dressed and cheered her on as she went to school. Next we tackled chores and homework and learning to ride a bike. Like all parents, I gave my girls baby steps toward independence. But the older my girls get, the more blurred the lines of freedom and responsibility become.
At what point is a child responsible for tracking his own homework?
When should he be held accountable for doing chores (without reminders)?
How old is old enough to stay home alone?
And as they enter the teen years; how much freedom is enough, how much is not enough?
There are no ‘right’ answers. Parents are simply presented with situations and thereby forced to make decisions. Sometimes I make good ones, sometimes not. But I try to remember I get only 18 years to raise my kids, 18 years to teach them how to fly. I use this truth as my guide.
I am so fascinated by birds. I love how cheerful they are, love to watch them as they search for food, prepare a nest and protect their young. These tiny creatures appear to be so happy and carefree.
I recently watched a video of a mama bird teaching her children how to fly. Mostly the video focused on the babies in the nest. How long it took them to leave! First they watched their mother fly away, their heads swooping up and down as they observed her. Next one or two of them peered out over the nest pensively. Their body language revealed their unease; after looking out at the world, they suddenly backed up in fear.
Leaping out into the great unknown; even baby birds are anxious when it comes to leaving the safety of the nest.
Stretching our wings is never comfortable. But it is also how we learn.
By getting up again after we fall.
Sometime I fear my generation doesn’t allow our children to do this. We love our children so much so that we don’t want them to fall or fail. We know how much it hurts. So instead we smooth the edges of life’s storms in order to shelter them. We limit their responsibility and freedom so that we can protect them. We email their teachers because it is easier then relying on our child to be responsible for himself.
But good parenting involves stretching.
So as easy as it is for me to email my youngest daughter’s teacher about her project, I won’t.
As hard as it is to trust her when she tells me she has a handle on her homework, to give her a little freedom with social media, to allow her go off to the park with her friend (without me), I will do it.
I will trust my gut, trust my daughter and trust God as he helps me raise her. And when she falls, because she surely will, I will help her get back up again.
I will allow her to stretch her wings now, in hopes that later in life I can watch her soar.
Parenting is hard, especially when you have to say no. Setting boundaries–and enforcing them–is key. More than anything, I think it’s critical to trust your gut. By the way, great photo.