Lessons on loving your children and letting them go
No book prepares us well enough for the emotional roller-coaster ride that is parenting! Read as New York Times columnist and single-dad of 13 years Charles M Blow shares his views on loving and letting our children go.
Being a mum is the hardest thing I have ever done! I know this is a cliche and everyone says it, but it is true! There are days when my two little darlings drive me so crazy that I swear I can feel myself sprouting grey hairs.
Then there are other days I feel I could just sit and stare and them for hours and wish if I held them hard enough they would just stay this age forever! These are the emotions we mums (and dads of course!) face when these little angels enter our lives.
When the said angels are being expected we read book after book on how to prepare for them. Get a cozy room ready, prepare ourselves for sleepless nights etc. But what prepares us for the emotional roller coaster that is being a parent? I was one of those expectant mums who read every parenting book I could get my hands on.
But what I have experienced for the last 5 years – the anxiety over an imminent flu, the elation at seeing my baby girl perform on stage at her concert, the heartache of seeing my little boy take a tumble and cry his little heart out and the incomprehensible love I feel when I see my two angels snuggle up and sleep – cannot be learnt in the pages of a book. I’m sure you too can attest to this.
Charles M. Blow, an American journalist, and the current visual op-ed columnist for The New York Times, beautifully articulated his feelings about being a parent in a recent column he wrote called ‘The passion of parenting’. He has been a single dad for the last 13 years and admits it hasn’t been easy.
He says, “People sometimes say that parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love. But I believe that parenting is sometimes so tough — and exhausting — that you don’t always remember to slow down enough to love it. Sometimes the love is registered in retrospect.”
When we are having one of those exhausting days, we wonder when will our kids outgrow their kiddish behavior. Once when faced with a similar situation, Charles spoke to his mother, who he believes always knew what to say and possessed what he calls ‘mother’s wit’.
She said to him “Baby, one day they’ll be able to get themselves a cup of water.” He says, “It was a simple way of saying that children grow up and become more self-reliant and eventually they set out on their own to chart their own course. You won’t always have to wait on them hand and foot.”
Charles shares the advice his mother gave him when his children were younger and he often felt overwhelmed. I am certain this will be immensely helpful to you as well.
- Remember that the more people a child has who truly love him or her, the happier that child will be. So work hard to maintain and expand their circles of love.
- Parenting is a lot like giving a hug: it’s all about love and pressure and there is no one way to do it.
- Sometimes you have to make time for yourself so that you will have energy to give to your children. Allow them to have a pizza night every now and then. An occasional treat won’t hurt them, but working yourself to a frazzle will surely hurt you. Rest.
- You must allow yourself time to find stillness and so you can be moved by it. Sometimes we are so busy that we forget why we’re busy. We have so many things on our list of priorities that we lose sight of what’s really important.
- Your children are not truly yours. They don’t belong to you; they’ve simply been entrusted to you. They are a gift life gave to you, but one that you must one day give back to life. They must grow up and go away and that is as it should be.
That last point reminds us that someday we will have to let our kids go. A close friend of mine who recently sent her son off to university told me that when it was time to say goodbye to her son, she felt grief, not as bad as, but close to the grief she felt when she lost her dad.
Charles talks about letting his kids go. “As the time with my children in my home draws to a close — my oldest is away at college and my twins are 16-year-old high school juniors — I’m beginning to feel the pains in my chest that all parents feel when their children move away.”
He adds, “I thought that this would be a celebratory time, a time when I would relish the idea of getting back to me, of working late without worry and taking last-minute weekend jaunts. But I don’t. Letting go is hard for me to do. I must let go, but my heart feels hollow. I can’t imagine me without them”.
Though my own kids are still very small and I have many more years with them before I send them off to college, my heart aches at the thought of letting them go. But that is the inevitable truth about life.
In conclusion, I quote from a verse on children by oneof my favourite poets, Kahlil Gibran – “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
How heart-achingly true this is!
Have you any advice to help other parents with letting their children go? Be it to college, getting married or National service. Please to leave a comment here, I’m sure your words will give them strength.