A major struggle for parents albeit not the most discussed, is knowing when to cut the cord. My wife and I have a long way to go before we see our baby girl as an adult, but time creeps on us all. “They grow up too fast” is a reality and not just something parents like to say. One day, she will walk out that door, off on a major life adventure and we will sit there in wonder.
Discussing parenting philosophies and the kind of mums and dads we want to be is important. Knowing when to let go is a great parenting lesson, often ignored. It isn’t seen as an important parenting skill. But letting go isn’t just a knack for good emotional balance, it’s also the practice of knowing when you have done enough and recognizing that it’s time to sit back, relax and watch your children exercise their independence.
On some fundamental level, we are all exposed to this in our own childhood… applying it as we grow older is where it gets lost in translation. The memory of learning to ride a bicycle is good one… that moment when our fathers had no choice but to let go. Taking off the training wheels is an important example of developing early independence in our children but equally important to emphasize the need to create that culture. If you don’t withdraw the support, they will never learn to ride.
I underscore a major issue in the first paragraph… the time we take to see our children as adults. When do parents realize that their job is done and its life’s turn to teach their kids the bigger lessons? Is there a defining moment when our children become capable of managing their own lives or like the training wheels, at every stage they are a little more adult than they were, thereby a little more capable of standing on their own feet?
I read an article on the evolution of parenting styles and the constant emergence of new ones. The takeaway from my reading was simple, each approach has benefits and pitfalls and being balanced is the way to go. I can’t imagine anyone missed the lesson on favoring balance over imbalance. What we did probably miss, partly faulted by our own upbringings, was the need to ask these questions. As fathers, it’s common to let our wives dictate the path or rely on the way of our own parentage, but is not asking these questions setting our children and our future relationship with them, up for failure?
My father continues to struggle with this. Ok, let’s be honest, we as his children struggle, he doesn’t know any better. He is a great dad and let there be no doubt about that but empowering us to take our own decisions and cutting the cord wasn’t a priority. He raised us to be successful in business, successful at everything we laid our hands on, but never focused on letting us explore those lessons for ourselves. Maybe that’s why we aren’t as successful as we could be. What was frustrating in my twenties is now comedy for my thirties but may turn to regret in my forties should I not heed the lesson.
Age is giving me the chance to reflect and not react, to use these experiences as stepping stones in my own parenting journey. An opportunity to define articulately what I want my daughter to learn from me and draw the hard line of letting go. This isn’t to say I won’t always be there to cushion her falls, but she will need to use her own wings to fly. She doesn’t need me to keep teaching her life’s lessons, she needs me to trust that I did a great job the first time.