Motherhood is a slow release of control, friends. I remember standing over my oldest son in his crib, just days old, and trying to think of a way to squeeze him back into my belly. Having him here, on the outside, overwhelmed me. He could catch a cold, he could aspirate, he could suffocate in his car seat… anxious thoughts flooded my brain. Keeping them at bay was becoming difficult.
My mother-in-law, whom I adore, told me once that you must choose to hold your children with open hands. She explained to me that the process of raising children is a slow release of control. To calm anxiety, I immediately want to exert control. Nothing has made me feel more “out of control” than the act of mothering. Can you imagine my reaction to the onset of motherhood? So, my tight grip was becoming tighter.
She sat across the couch from me, as I stared back at her with a newborn-momma glaze over my face. Sensing that I was having a hard time, my mother-in-law said, “Heather, from the moment your children are born it is a slow release of control. You birth them into a scary world, then you wean them onto food that is new, and then before you know it your watching them march off to kindergarten.” She was right.
Letting Go Will Always Be a Struggle
My son is now 9 years old, and the letting go is still a struggle. I want to grip tight to the reigns of his life and the lives of my other two children. I want to calculate who plays with who, and I want to protect them from experiences that cause pain or heart ache. But, in doing so, I realize that I am not preparing them for the real life. Allowing my children to feel the sting of betrayal, or the embarrassment of missing a recess due to no homework, is giving them opportunity to learn and grow.
Even though it goes against every grain in my body, I let my children make mistakes. I have learned to watch them forge relationships that can be messy and hard. Along their path I am there to guide and direct, while giving them permission to navigate. Friends, let’s be honest with ourselves and agree that the alternative would hinder them later in life. Mom will not always be the net that catches them; in their marriage, in their career and in their own parenting.
Motherhood is Filled with Unexpected Anxiety
I find that my need to control the minutia is a reflection of my own anxiety and insecurity. They are capable, and they are resilient. Having a mother who believes in them is much more important than manipulating and configuring every day of their lives.
My anxiety can creep up at the slightest thing. For instance, the other day, my 6 yo daughter pranced out of her room with in turquoise sparkle tights, a striped shirt and a Rudolph dress, ready for school. Her neon head band wasn’t adding to the ensemble, either. Instead of turning her around to put on a “matching” outfit, I released the situation and let her exert her personality that day. The thought of control entered, and then I let it go, feeling free and empowering my daughter. We were both happier.
Whether it be the birth of your child, weening them off of breast milk, or giving them the opportunity to pick their own clothing, make the choice to hold your children with open hands. Release the grip and learn how to let life happen. My need to grip tighter is ever present, but I know we are happier and healthier when I allow them to fly.