Having run an elementary and middle school, I’ve spent years observing the process of growing up. I've also supported parents in their journey each step of the way, which left me feeling like I had a keen sense of how the parent-child relationship worked.
As my own kids are now surpassing the age of my perceived expertise, I find myself seeking guidance from the parents who survived the teenage years unscathed. (If there's such a thing!) You know the saying- the cobbler's kids have no shoes...
Spring brought the first of it-- the undeniable shift from child to teen. It arrived unexpectedly, furiously, with no clear warning, despite the age, and all obvious signs. (Not my child!)
My innocent child became more confident, more confrontational. More hungry, more distant. More independent, more defiant.
Gone were the nighttime snuggles and secrets.Gone were the homework sessions completed (obediently!) with care.Gone was my control.
Spring was turbulent. I hadn't expected the changes (really!?), so I responded with fear-- a sure fire way to screw everything up.
I was hanging on to any control I had (which was not much). My relationship with my teen turned from one of my greatest joys to one that ached of loss. We were fighting, and frustrated-- and nobody was backing down.
One day, lightning quick, I jolted back to reality. I was not the parent I wanted to be, nor one that I recognized. I realized that if I wanted to maintain the trust I'd worked so hard to build, I needed to grow along with my child.
I had a list of needs that were all my own, and not his.
I need to let go of control.I need to trust the child I raised.I need to accept that he is changing.I need to let go of control.I need to remember he'll come back to me.I need to stop nagging.I need to let go of control.I need to let him make mistakes.I need to support him when he falls.I need to let go of control.I need friends to talk to.I need to appreciate who he's becoming.I need to let go of control.I need be calm.I need to walk away when I need a break.I need to let go of control.
In that sharp, transformative instant, I let go.
He is thirteen, and we have many years to go--but in small, comforting ways, this turmoil has rewarded us.
When I am calm, he has guidance.When I walk away, he takes a pause.When I support him, he has something to stand on.When I stop nagging, he hears me.When I trust him, he rises to the occasion.When I accept him, he shares his world with me.When I let go of control, we're in it together.
It may not be exactly how I planned/imagined/engineered it-- but it's better than the alternative.
Take heed-- your child will change. It's going to be quick, furious, and undeniable. And it's going to be harder than you ever imagined.
Letting go is what kids are designed to do. If we do it right, we're supposed to let go, too.