There are times in your life as a parent where you can feel a shift in the dynamic of your family. Those times where you know that things have profoundly changed and won’t be going back to the way they were before. When your child starts walking, when they go off to kindergarten, when they get their driver’s license… they are all moments of change, of shift, when you have that sense that “this is big” and you know that your family will be different from here on out.
Sometimes these changes are welcome, let me tell you your kid getting their license is almost as freeing as them finally being potty trained! It’s terrifying yes, but when you don’t have to drive them anywhere it’s a lot like no longer having to change diapers!
Sometimes these changes leave us, as parents, apprehensive, worried about our kids, knowing the potential negatives that lay in store for them, and concerned about what they could face.
My family is going through one of these shifts big time this week. I knew it was coming, I knew it was going to be big, and so I’ve prepared myself to be sure that I react in the most positive way possible, that I encourage my boys, and that I let my emotions out when they’re not around, and I won’t affect them.
See my oldest left for college on Thursday, he’s only an hour away, but he’s still away… living on campus, eating on campus, setting out on an amazing journey that I know he is going to love. My middle kiddo started his first day of High School today, his first day of public school EVER, my little homeschooled boy setting off into a big school full of people, he’s excited, it’s what he wants to do, and I know he’ll do really well.
But there is that shift, that change, for the first time in 17 years I only have one kiddo at home to homeschool. I know we’re going to have fun, and it will be great for him to get me one on one, but it is certainly an adjustment.
Here’s the thing about these times though, the thing that as parents we need to be mindful of, so that our kids maintain their excitement. We need to give them wings, not fears.
What do I mean by that? Well, when your homeschooled kid who has struggled with a stutter most of their life wants to go to public school, that knot in your stomach that you feel, that urge to tell them what a bad idea it is? You have to keep it to yourself. When your child wants to try something new, when they are up for an exciting adventure, you have to quiet that part of yourself that wants to tell them all the bad things that could possibly happen!
Hold your tongue.
Think before you speak. Is what you are about to say a negative from your experience? Is your child necessarily going to have the same thing happen? Are you speaking out of fear? If what you’re going to say is going to fill your child with fear instead of confidence keep it to yourself. Yes, you might have a feeling about what could happen, but it might not. Your child has to have their own experiences without that doubt in their mind. When we tell our kids the worst possible out comes we aren’t preparing them, we are instilling our own fears into their minds, and that isn’t fair. It’s up to us to take care of them and protect them, but often that means from our own negativity. So as your child sets off into their new experience, let it be theirs, and think before you offer your own input.
Let them try new things.
I know my son was nervous as he stepped out of the car today, but he was ready, it was time for him to set off on a new adventure. The thing about life is that it is going to change, inevitably, time ticks on and things change. When your child wants to try something new that is their way of moving forward, of becoming who they are meant to be, and it’s ok. Sometimes it’s scary as parents to let them endeavour into things, maybe you’re afraid they’ll get hurt, or that someone will make fun of them, but it’s important to let them try! The great thing is that nothing is permanent, if your child tries something and hates it then they can stop, but let that be their decision not influenced by you.
Share their excitement with them
While you’re holding your tongue to keep from saying anything negative, turn your thoughts around and share in the excitement they have. As Anthony left for college everyone kept asking me if I was going to cry. I won’t lie, I had my moments, as our kids grow those feelings are always there. But as we went through the process, as we moved him into his dorm, I shared in his excitement. He is on a beautiful campus, he is getting to swim for college, and he is ready to take on the challenges before him… how could I not be happy for him? Sometimes it’s hard to get out of our own heads, to keep our momma emotions in check, we think about when they were little and how fast time flies, but we need to set those feelings aside in favor of ones that better serve our kids. Our kids don’t want to see us cry as they get on the school bus, or head off to summer camp for the first time, that only clouds their happiness. So be excited, be supportive, be encouraging, it will help both of you!
Understand that is their journey, not yours.
This one is sometimes the toughest. Here’s the thing, while our kids are our kids the journey that they are on, the life they are meant to lead, is not ours. We get a short time to teach them, to help them grow into the best versions of themselves that they can be, but the path that they tread in this life is one that is uniquely theirs. Think about your life, think about if your parents had been 100% in charge of every decision you made, would your life look like it does right now? I know mine wouldn’t! (Pretty sure my parents wouldn’t have thought getting pregnant at 18 was a good idea!) Yet here you are, here I am, on this path that is our life, learning and growing every day, making decisions and becoming who we are supposed to be. The same is true for your kids, it’s sometimes hard to step back and let that happen, let them create their path and head down it, but you have to. It’s easier to accept that their life is theirs, and assist them on their journey, then it is to try to micromanage it and make their life what you want for them.
Know that when you give them wings they can fly back home.
For Christmas this year my oldest wanted money for a tattoo, so that was his big gift. I had thought for a long time that I wanted a tattoo too, but have never been sure what to get but I knew I wanted it to represent my boys. It was around the same time he started talking about going away to college, and so I was inspired to get three birds on my wrist, a reminder to myself to give them wings. I got swallows, mostly because I like how they look, but I later read that the symbology of a swallow tattoo comes from sailors, they are a symbol of coming home. I couldn’t love that meaning more!
It sounds cliché but it is true. When we give our kids confidence to head out into the world, to make decisions, to live their lives to the fullest, to truly spread their wings and fly, they are comfortable in their life, and know that they can always return home. They know that home is a safe place to land and rest, a place where they are welcome and encouraged, and so it is somewhere they want to be. As we accept the decisions they make, as we encourage them, keep our fears to ourselves and let them fly, we set them up for success, and give them a foundation for an amazing life!
So as you move into a new school year, a new phase in your kid’s lives, a place of shift and change, I encourage you to take the time to think before you speak, to fill your kids with confidence, to keep your fears to yourself.
I encourage you to help them spread those wings and fly!
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