When to stop parenting — that is the question

When they turn 18. When they get married. When they have kids of their own. When, if ever, is it time to stop parenting our children?

I have a 16-year-old daughter who flips between needing me furiously and furiously needing her independence. Knowing when to step in and when to pull back is a constant struggle. My own life is all I have to go on, and stepping in to save her from the pitfalls I’ve experienced myself often seems near impossible. But if it weren’t for those pitfalls, I wouldn’t be who I am today. This prompts me to question where that fine line is between sparing her potential pain and hindering her personal growth.

It’s early days now. She’s young and unquestionably needs my input, but I am aware of how quickly time is passing. At the moment, she’s a total total homebody and I can’t imagine her ever wanting to leave home. But one day she may well tell me that she’s heading to Australia to make babies with some guy she met backpacking in India. OK, so that was a pretty random scenario but you get my point. Eventually she’s going to move out — perhaps she’ll move far away. She’ll have her own moral compass. She’ll chose her own path, and then what’s my purpose? I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a dog lover, and a writer, but first and foremost I am Lucy’s mom. I don’t know what the future holds. Or rather, I don’t know what her future holds, and I guess that’s the hardest part.

She’s my child, but it’s her future.

People talk a lot about having ‘babies’ but in reality, we should talk about having ‘people.’ After all, the baby bit is a pretty teeny blip in the grand scheme of things. As parents, our job is to raise kind, strong, independent thinkers. This means letting go at some point, as my parents did when all three of their children bailed on university to pursue other seemingly less valuable endeavours, only to eventually return and earn qualifications that would allow each of us to enjoy successful careers.

It means letting us literally take flight, as my parents did when both my brother and I moved to Canada, as my paternal grandparents did when my father left Hungary during the revolution, and as my maternal grandparents did when my mother left Australia to work in England for a few months that turned into forever because she met my dad.

If you love something, set it free.

As I sat down to write this post, I thought about that famous but hard-to-source saying: If you love something, set it free. Initially I thought those words would capture the essence of today’s contemplation, but then I remembered the words that follow: If it comes back, it was yours; if it doesn’t come back, it wasn’t.

When it comes to loving your children, this line doesn’t wash with me. Our children are ours, even if they move away and don’t come back. They’re simply living their lives. We need to remember this.

So, where does this leave us?  We’ll be forever parents, but we won’t be parenting forever.

 

By | 2017-08-22T09:22:00+00:00 July 29th, 2017|36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Grandi | My Aggrandized Life July 29, 2017 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    This is great. There are so many different types of parenting out there. We are a bit ‘overprotective’ (aka – conservative) with our kids, but we also know when to let go. That’s the important part. In order for them to fly, we have to teach them. It’s a delicate balance but a beautiful one when it happens.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 29, 2017 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      “In order for them to fly” — that’s the key thing. It’s our job to help them take flight.

  2. Erica July 29, 2017 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Great article – I like reading new points of view!

    • THE WORDY MOM July 29, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      Glad you enjoyed, Erica. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

  3. Shell July 30, 2017 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Love this so much!! At some point we have to feel secure we did the best job we can and let them fly….

    • THE WORDY MOM July 30, 2017 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      Yep. Trust and release!

  4. Jiya B July 30, 2017 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    I loved reading it. Honestly we parents require to stop parenting at a point otherwise it will only take up our peace of mind. After an age kids needs freedom and liberty. I think I needed it when I was a kid. 🙂

    • THE WORDY MOM July 31, 2017 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      My daughter would agree with you. I don’t think she’s quite ready to be set free though!

  5. Aesha Shah July 31, 2017 at 4:08 am - Reply

    Rightly said. I believed that this concept of not letting children go and explore themselves is only a lot in India. Didn’t believe it exists in other countries too. But after reading your post, I guess it’s universal. Parenting has similar challenges irrespective of demographics.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 31, 2017 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      I would say it’s definitely universal Aesha. Mothers are mothers, wherever they live.

  6. Karen July 31, 2017 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Well put. Parenting is tough and it is hard not to want to continue to parent after our kids grow up and have their own lives. I am the one that chose to live abroad and my kids do not like it that I am the one that left-reverse of what typically happens. Separating being a parent and parenting is truly challenging. I appreciated your insight.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 31, 2017 at 1:47 pm - Reply

      And I appreciate your ‘reverse’ perspective on this, Karen. You’re so right. Just as we must recognize there comes a time for us to stop ‘parenting,’ our kids must similarly recognize the need to eventually set us free from this journey.

  7. Nicole July 31, 2017 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    I totally dread the idea of my daughter or any of my children leaving me to go away to college one day, but I have to say that when I left the state for college, it was one of the best things I could have ever done. Being on your “own” so to say really forces you to grow up and get accustomed to the real world.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 31, 2017 at 3:59 pm - Reply

      It does. I’d definitely like my own daughter to opt for residence vs. staying at home.

  8. Ana July 31, 2017 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    As mothers we do all we can do to instill knowledge and confidence in our children. When the day comes to set my children free hopefully I have comfort in that.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 31, 2017 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      Yes, Ana. Instilling knowledge and confidence is all we can do. From there, we just need to trust we did our best and hope they choose to take these lessons to heart. Perhaps even surpass what we’ve taught them and teach us a thing or two : )

  9. Marshall Johnson August 1, 2017 at 1:00 am - Reply

    Excellent work, Wordy! Better questions than answers – which I’m sure was by design. And I loved the part toward the end where you showed your process in writing this. You had a preconceived notion but tore it up in your contemplation. Beautiful – honesty is the best ingredient in writing IMHO.

    • THE WORDY MOM August 1, 2017 at 7:41 am - Reply

      Thanks, Marshall. Much appreciated, especially from somebody as articulate as you. (Yep, check out your blog!)

  10. love janera August 1, 2017 at 2:45 am - Reply

    I also believe on what you’re believing too. If God given us the freedom to turn our back from him even if he is our creator what more our mother who just gave birth to us?. But if a daughter wants to live far from her mother for guy that’s immaturity. I will support her if she will do it to learn more from life. Like to become responsible on her own. I like your article it made me think more about my relationship to my mother.

    • THE WORDY MOM August 1, 2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

      Thank you for your reply and for sharing your unique and interesting perspective.

  11. Toni August 1, 2017 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Ahh it’s so hard isn’t it, I want to wrap mine in cotton wool and never let them go at the same time as being aware that every thing I do as a mama is in preperation for one day sending them off to spread their wings without me! It’s a scary thought, and a fine balance Mama that’s for sure. We can only do what we do and hope for the best

    • THE WORDY MOM August 1, 2017 at 5:23 pm - Reply

      That’s it Toni!

  12. Elise Cohen Ho August 1, 2017 at 11:20 am - Reply

    I love this and I love that you acknowledge all of the different stages of parenting.

    • THE WORDY MOM August 1, 2017 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much Elise.

  13. Kristy August 1, 2017 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Beautifully stated. My children are young now, but fiercely independent and I know that as they get older, I will have to let them walk their own paths even though I have always stuck close to home and where I’ve always known. Fantastic post!

    • THE WORDY MOM August 1, 2017 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      Much appreciated, Kristy.

  14. Rambles and Runaways August 1, 2017 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    really lovely post!

    • THE WORDY MOM August 2, 2017 at 6:18 am - Reply

      Cheers!

  15. Kathy Sniffen Miele August 3, 2017 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Love you style of writing! This post hits home for me because mine are soon-to-leave-age too and I’ve been struggling with it!

    • THE WORDY MOM August 3, 2017 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Oh, I wish you strength Kathy!

  16. Jassy August 3, 2017 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Wow, really brilliant post! I really understand why my parents were so overprotective, sometimes. But I guess, i will find it out when I have my own child.
    Great Post!

    • THE WORDY MOM August 3, 2017 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much, Jassy. And boy oh boy, do you learn a lot about your parents’ behaviour when you become one!

  17. Crisly August 3, 2017 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    This struck me. Reading this made me sad, I left my parents when I was 19 and now I am 31. I see them once a year but I know its not enough. I can imagine how hard it was for them when I left, but they did not stop me from living my life.

    • THE WORDY MOM August 3, 2017 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      Don’t be sad. Your happiness is their happiness, I am sure 🙂

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