As a parent, letting go can be one of the hardest parts of the job. God gives us our little ones to love, care for, protect, serve, guide, and prepare. But what are we preparing them for if we’re not willing to loosen our grip and give them some freedom along the way?
This reality hit me hard when our son was in eighth grade. I think we can all agree some of life’s hardest years are during middle school. Trying to find your place amidst the hormones, acne, peer pressure, and academic expectations can be exhausting. Despite all of the challenges, Logan was a great student, making straight A’s and becoming a member of the National Junior Honors Society.
He’d proven time and again that he was capable of doing what was required to succeed. He only had one thing in his way…me.
His Success Became My Success
I’d been by his side since kindergarten, helping with projects, serving as the class’s room mom, chaperoning field trips, and leading the PTA. We were a great team. But somewhere along the way, I’d attached his success as a student to my success as a mom. It hadn’t been intentional. I just wanted him to do his best, so I controlled every part of his academic life: from the school he attended and the classes he chose to his class projects and clubs he joined.
During his seventh grade year, he and I worked on a history project together that earned us (I mean him) a trip to Washington, D.C. for a national competition. Of course, I went along as the only parent chaperone. We had a great time. Although he didn’t win, he did well, and I was very proud of him and our (I mean his) achievement.
Naturally, I thought we would aim for nationals again the following year. Little did I know, Logan had different plans.
It Was Time to Talk
Time was running out to choose a topic for his eighth grade project. I’d suggested several promising ideas, but he either ignored me or acted completely uninterested. After several days of tension to which I attributed was his middle-school attitude, it was time for a talk.
I stepped into his room. He was lying on his bed, headphones on, playing video games.
“Logan, we need to talk about your project.”
He continued playing his game, almost oblivious to my presence, although I knew he’d heard me.
“Logan,” I said, louder this time, my tone echoing my frustration. “We need to get this done. The deadline is coming up.”
“Will you get off my back?” he huffed as he ripped the headphones off. “I have it covered, and I want to do it myself.”
Wow! I thought I’d heard the end of that phrase when he left his toddler years.
I guess his cry for independence hadn’t ended. It had just evolved to sound like, “I got this,” or “Stop hovering,” or “Get off my back.”
Over the next several minutes, all of his bottled-up emotions spewed out. Then it happened. I noticed his posture changed as did his tone. He calmly turned his head and looked me in the eye.
“Why don’t you trust me?” he asked. “Why don’t you think I can do this? I’ve never given you any reason to doubt me. Why won’t you just let me try? I mean, maybe I’ll fail, and need your help. But…maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll succeed all on my own.”
What are we preparing our kids for if we’re not willing to loosen our grip and give them some freedom along the way?
I was stunned—not because I was upset, but because I realized he was right.
My 12-year-old had given me a lot to think about. His points were valid and deserved my respect and consideration.
During our exchange he said two things that stuck with me: First, he asked why I didn’t trust him when he’d never done anything to break my trust. Second, he said that regardless if he failed or succeeded, he wanted to do it on his own.
Logan wasn’t being disrespectful. Our son was growing up. He was learning to express himself just as we’d taught him to. He was coming into his own, and what he needed was a cheerleader, not a control freak.
I Learned to Loosen My Grip and Let Go
That conversation changed our entire relationship. From then on, I began to loosen my grip and allow him the freedom to grow, take risks, succeed, and even fail. It wasn’t easy. In fact, at times it was almost painful to hold myself in check when I wanted to intervene. It was during this time God revealed three things to me:
As his mother, it’s my job to intervene when I see he’s in trouble. Preventing a bad grade or an opportunity to fail isn’t intervening. It’s not protecting him either. It’s controlling. Life is a series of mountains and valleys, success and failures, all of which builds character and growth. We’ve done our children a disservice if we only teach them to succeed well without also allowing them to learn how to fail well, grow from their mistakes, and move forward with grace.
2. If I’m controlling his life, he will never learn to give God control.
As a parent, it’s our job to point our children to Jesus, to teach them that God has a special plan for their life. And that plan might look a lot different than the one we have for our kiddos. What if God’s plan for them doesn’t include valedictorian, the full-ride sports scholarship, or an ivy league degree? How will they ever learn to follow God’s plan for their lives if we don’t teach them to surrender to it?
3. Caged birds can’t fly, so let your kids spread their wings.
We spend years raising our kids to someday leave the nest. We pray for them to follow God, become independent, and lead
successful lives. These things can only occur for our children when we are willing to let go enough to give them space to spread their wings and fly. And if we’re honest, our desire to hold them closely says more about our own insecurities and fears than it does about our children’s inability to succeed without us.
Mom, I know you love your children, but it’s not our job to control every decision they make. As much as you love them, God loves them even more. He has a plan, a purpose, and a calling on their lives. It’s our job to guide them, pray for them, teach them, and help them discover their gifts and passions that can lead to rewarding pathways, both personally and professionally.
Giving our kids space to spread their wings and learn to soar won’t be easy. But if we embrace the challenge, we will learn to be their biggest cheerleaders, strongest supporters, and safest place to land.
Knowing when to intervene and when to step aside is one of the hardest parts of parenting. One of our writers shares a moment when she had to figure out which to do…