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Published October 07, 2013, 10:00 PM

Parenting Perspectives: Letting go may be the toughest part of parenting

The other day as my daughter got on the school bus, I found myself face-first in the corner of the garage like a punished child without the dunce cap.

By: Tracy Briggs, INFORUM

The other day as my daughter got on the school bus, I found myself face-first in the corner of the garage like a punished child without the dunce cap.

As I stood nose-deep in an old rake, a bag of fertilizer and a Topsy Turvy tomato hanger, I wondered exactly how I got there. The answer was pretty obvious really. My name is Tracy, and I have trouble letting my children go.

I know I am not alone. While I didn’t see any other parents with faces pressed into garden tools that morning, I see you hovering at the monkey bars ready to swoop in at the first sign of trouble, refusing to pull your car away from the school drop-off zone until you see the door actually close behind your child, and later wanting to step in when he has trouble in college.

We are the overprotective bunch, and while we know it’s not always the best thing for our child, it’s a tough habit to break.

Consider this. When a baby is born, our job is to care for them and protect them. We buy outlet covers and car seats. We slather them in sunscreen, making sure their ears are covered. It’s the foremost thought in our mind.

So just because they’re now in school (fourth grade or college, it doesn’t matter), how are we supposed to suddenly shift gears and be the cool parent who knows letting go is what’s best?

My husband handles the balance very well. This summer while his family from Iowa was visiting we were discussing how we were going to handle child care for a 10 day stretch when our 9-year-old daughter, Jordan, wasn’t signed up for lessons or camps. Suddenly, he had the bright idea to send her away to Iowa to be with Grandma and the gang. My sister-in-law bravely agreed to play hostess to her. Jordan was excited, and I was shell shocked.

Within the span of 45 seconds, it had basically been decided that my baby would be ripped from my arms and taken a half a world away.

OK, I know it was a great solution. She got to spend a week and half on a farm, with people who love her dearly and are way more fun than we could ever dream of being.

After a few tears that week (mostly mine), it turned out to be a wonderful experience. She had a great time spreading her wings, and I’m grateful my in-laws helped her do it. Letting-go Lesson No. 1 learned.

But two months later, I found myself in that garage. It was my older daughter Laura’s first day taking the bus to middle school. She’s never taken the bus to school before. As I watched her walk the two doors down to the bus stop, I just couldn’t go back in the house, but I couldn’t stand there and embarrass her. I choose to hide in the garage peeking out like Arte Johnson peering through the bushes in “Laugh In.” I probably embarrassed her anyway.

She got on the bus just fine. I was relieved and a little embarrassed at my behavior. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed to even admit my shortcomings like this. I know there are parents out there who have dealt with bigger challenges.

How many of you just sent kids off to college thousands of miles away? Packing up their belongings and wishing them the best as you pull away.

Then there are my in-laws, the ones who kindly hosted by daughter this summer. They just wished their daughter well as she went to serve in the Army in Afghanistan. Gulp. That really is half a world away and to them, in many ways, she is still their baby.

No one said this parenting thing would be an easy gig. Tom Petty might have once sung that it’s the “waiting” that’s the hardest part. But I disagree; it’s really the letting go.

Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and is an employee of Forum Communications Co. She can be reached at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com.

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