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August 14, 2007

Letting go ....

Is probably the hardest thing any parent has to face. What provoked this line of thought? An exchange with a fellow blogger whose eldest son will be launching forth into the great big pond outside his own home yard and learning to cope with the bigger pond that is the school room and school yard in the Autumn. It reminded me of the first day at school for each of my own three and, perhaps to my own surprise, the first day I spent at school myself. As I recall the first lesson I learned on that day was that "friends" I knew in my neighbourhood and who were slightly older than me, weren't "friends" in the School playground. There they were not prepared to associate with a junior. That said, I was not one of those who cried when my mother left me in the care of the teacher on that first day, and I recall a feeling of slight superiority as I watched other kids succumb to that urge. I wonder what that says about me then and now?

At each stage of growth our kids present us with challenges. But the main things is the joy they give us, for the joys generally far outweigh the disasters that inevitably accompany the growing up process. Looking back I think I must have been a real trial to my parents. I conformed in many things, and ran amok in others. Homework happened to other people and I rarely completed mine, something I am quite ashamed of now. I have never been good at self study and there was no one home to ensure I actually did it - so I did the minimum necessary to avoid a caning. As one of my former School Masters told me many years later - "We could see the lights on and the intelligence there; but you evaded every attempt to engage your interest in what we were teaching!" He was flattered to learn that he had succeeded in teaching me a great deal more than he thought he had.

Children grow very rapidly once they hit school and from Day one they start to grow away from us. Suddenly Mum and Dad are not the only people who know stuff or can show us stuff. There is a whole new range of interesting and sometimes scary people out there suddenly impacting on us in different ways. As soon as we learn to read things more complicated than "Janet and John" there are other influences pouring into our heads. As parents we forget just how blank a slate a child's head is when we wave good bye at the bus stop or the school gate - and we are sometimes alarmed at what gets written on it and by whom! Suddenly our influences seem to diminish rapidly and the child seems to almost run away from our control as they learn to admire a teacher, or to hero worship one of their peers. Most of the influences from thsi will be good ones - provided we have ourselves prepared the 'slate' carefully and properly, teaching the difference between right and wrong; teaching respect for others and the rules of common courtesy and decency. These rules they will not get at school, these rules they have to have already learned when they enter those gates.

But, once we have started to widen their world, once they enter the school enivironment it often seems that we, as parents, become less important to the child. This isn't really so, but they do have so many new influences to deal with they do not give the same amount of time to us any longer. The chrysalis in which we placed them as babies is about to be torn open. We forget too that for much of human existence, childhood ceased at age six or seven and adulthood commenced at around fifteen. We have prolonged childhood and we have prolonged education, both good things to have done, but we have also forgotten that there comes a time and a point at which these fledglings have to learn to fly on their own. That is the hard bit.

This was brought home to me as I listened at the weekend to the latest exploits of my son. It is true that the "apple does not fall far from the tree" and it is sometimes uncomfortable to be confronted with another version of myself. Different, but comparable in so many ways .... But, he is an adult now and must make his own mistakes and his own decisions, as must both my daughters. That doesn't mean I love any of them any less, just that, hard as it is, I have had to learn to step back, to be there when they want to confide in me or cry on my shoulder - but I cannot fight their battles or steer their lives any longer. I have to let go, to learn to take a new role and position, one which I hope allows me to remain a friend, a confidant and - on those occassions when the family aversion to advice isn't in the ascendent - to offer advice.

Letting go is the hardest thing every parent has to face .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at August 14, 2007 10:39 AM

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Nope, I'm not letting go. Not going to happen - GRIN

Posted by: vw bug at August 15, 2007 04:19 PM