One of the hardest parts of parenting is letting go. As a new school year rapidly approaches, I feel the ache and pull in my heart as I slowly (and I do mean at a snail’s pace), let my children go out into the world.
This is a huge year for us. I have one who will be a freshman in college (gulp), two in high school, one in middle school and two who will be in elementary school. This is really going to be a year of transition for us as a family.
I am enjoying them so much as they are getting older. We can do more things now that we don’t have a baby in tow. We can play a board game without a little toddler suddenly deciding that the middle of the board is the perfect place to plop down. We can go shopping without anyone hiding under the racks or without worrying that the older girls will be mortified to walk into a cool store like Hollister which always seemed to be the one place that made their brother relax enough to make a dirty diaper. And like Finn happily points out every time we visit an amusement park, “Look mom, we don’t have to do baby rides anymore because I’m a big boy now.”
The problem is that apparently, according to my teenagers, I am not letting go enough. I am according to them, a “helicopter” mom. In other words, I am always hovering.
I admit I am a bit of an overprotective mom in some areas of my children’s lives. My children have curfews all year round. During the school year, it’s never an issue because they are all so tired from their busy days of school and sports that they are all more than willing and wanting to go to bed. But weekends and summer include a curfew and it is an early one for two reasons. First of all, I am a working mom, so I need to get some sleep so I can get up and go to work. And secondly, there is nothing good that goes on after 11 pm on the weekend. Their friends are always welcome at our house as long as I am home, but all of my own children must be in the house at 11p.m.
I totally understand that in a few weeks when my daughter leaves for college and is not under my roof anymore, that I cannot be checking on her each night and expect her to text me when she gets home. I know it is going to be a huge adjustment for me and even a bit scary, but the reality is all I can do is pray for her to be safe and that with each and every day she learns more and more about the beautiful person that she is to become in this world and makes good choices. But for now while still under my roof, my rules stick.
The thing is that they never complain about curfew, they never have. But what drives them crazy is that I won’t go to sleep until I know everyone is home and tucked in bed. I don’t know why. I just like to know that my babies are all tucked in their beds. I know I need to let that one go and I am working on it.
For the past few weeks I have really made an effort to go to bed as soon as they walk in the door at 11. The first few nights were hard. I heard them giggling and talking. I heard them go into the kitchen to get a snack. There was such a part of me that wanted to be a part of that, but I also loved falling asleep to the sounds of my oldest three laughing together and talking. I’m actually enjoying falling asleep to that sound now. They are great kids and it is really special to hear them bonding without their younger siblings vying for attention.
The other thing that makes me a “helicopter” mom according to them is that they have to text me every time they leave to go somewhere, when they get there and when they leave again. They think they should have a little more freedom and be able to tell me where they are going and when they will be home and leave it at that. As my son pointed out that it is only because of technology that that so much contact is possible and I should try and think of it like life before there were cell phones. It is true that when I was growing up we told our parents where we were going and when we would be home. To a certain extent he is right. But since we have the technology and I am paying for it, why not use it so I don’t worry every time I hear a siren and panic that maybe they have been hurt?
I tried to explain to them that it is not that I don’t trust them, it is just that it is a big, bad world out there full of other people I don’t trust. How do I let up? I am open for suggestions on this one.
I told them that rather than a “helicopter” mom, I see myself as a “hub” mom. They gave me very blank stares so I explained to them what I meant.
I told them to think about the time that we were at the Atlanta airport and all of the chaos that went on up and down the corridor as people waited for their planes. “Well, I am the person in charge of that chaotic area,” I told them.
I have to make sure and direct the flow of all the people going so many different places, I am responsible for making sure that they have all of their belongings with them and that nothing gets left behind, I have to clear everything for take-off and landing as well as make sure that every plane (or in our case car) that comes and goes is mechanically sound and ready for the trip. I have to not only fuel the vessels to transport all the people, but I also have to provide some type of fuel for the people to eat and drink while they are in my “hub”. In addition, I am responsible for making sure that every single person in my “hub” gets to and from their destination safely and as close to the time expected as possible.
They looked at me for a minute and then my oldest piped up and said, “Good try Mom with the analogy, but you’re definitely just a helicopter mom. But we love you for hovering so much and we know it is just because you care.”
So how much “hovering” is too much? I always want to be there when they fall but I also know that at some point I do have to step back and let them go. But how do I do that? I have been a mom for so long that I am not sure I know how to let go.
As the new school year begins and the transitions start, I am open and looking for thoughts and suggestions. Email Blythe at firstname.lastname@example.org or share your thoughts with Blythe and other parents at www.facebook.com/blythe.newsome.