Sunday, 25 August 2019

Letting go

One of the hardest things about being a parent must be giving up the constant supervision of your children and trusting them to make their own decisions - hopefully sensible and intelligent ones.

When you've been keeping an eye on your children 24 hours a day since they were born, it must be quite a wrench to be less vigilant and stop constantly checking up on them.

I'm reminded of this by yet another teenager dying of a suspected drugs overdose at the Leeds music festival. The 17 year old girl had taken not just one drug but a whole cocktail of drugs. She trusted whoever gave them to her and assumed they weren't dangerous.

And every so often kids decide it would be hilarious to wreck the local children's playground or daub graffiti on the wall of the parish church.

At some point a parent has to allow their child to go out on their own and be responsible for their own actions. You have to make a judgment as to whether they'll be safe or whether they'll get into some kind of trouble - drug abuse, sexual harassment, a car accident, shoplifting.

I imagine the farther your child goes, and the longer they're away, the more nervous you get. If they're backpacking in Australia for two months, for example. Or maybe it makes no difference.

Of course at a certain age a child is legally entitled to do whatever they want and their parents can no longer stand in the way.

When I was a teenager I generally made sensible decisions, but not always. I remember driving my girlfriend home once when I was very drunk, as people did in those days. Luckily I didn't have an accident.

Just let go, they say. Easier said than done.


  1. My late mother was responsible for pushing her three sons out of the home as soon as they finished high school but, she waited for the right moment to return full time to all their homes as well as her daughter's home when finally she quit on her marriage to my late father. She never regretted having let us go because she knew that she would have them back in her life soon enough.

    All my siblings have had problems letting their children go and keep visiting them to be with the grandchildren or expect the children to visit them. I have been lucky. We did find it difficult when our son went to boarding school and then subsequently overseas to be part of our diaspora but, since his return has been at home with me. Now it is too late for him to go anywhere.

  2. We never had that problem. We never watched Kaitlin 24 hours a day, but we worked together as a family up on the land on weekends and some week nights in the summer. We grew fruit trees and gardens and built sheds, barb wire fences, even a small tractor from a kit. She lost all of her friends in the 8th grade because they went on drugs and she wouldn't. No, we never worried about her.

    The neat thing is she still loves the land, and Torben does too. The greenhouse was their idea because they think they might end up retiring there.

  3. It IS tough to let go of kids and let them make their own decisions. But you have to. I can't tell you how many times I've bitten my tongue!

  4. Ramana: It's probably harder for parents to let go of their children if they're at a loose end and don't have other things to busy themselves with.

    Jean: It sounds like Kaitlin is a thoroughly sensible person you never needed to worry about. Good for her resisting the drugs culture.

  5. Agent: I bet you had to bite your tongue on many occasions. When children are determined to go their own way, parental advice is so much hot air.

  6. I was so relived when our daughter married because then I could let go--I no longer felt responsible for her decisions. I now love being able to say to her, "I'm sure whatever decision you make will be right for you." Are they the decisions I wish she'd make--no. But it's her life not mine.

  7. Linda: That's an aspect of marriage I hadn't thought about - that the parents can "hand over" their child to someone else. And yes, however tempted you might be to interfere, her decisions are her own concern.

  8. It's more of a gradual process. Honestly, the dumbest decisions my kids ever made were things that never crossed my mind to warn them about.

  9. I don't have kids, but it's bad enough with cats and dogs!!

  10. Bijoux: Kids will always find something totally unexpected to get the wind up their parents!

    Ms Scarlet: It's certainly worrisome when a cat is wandering about on its own. One of our neighbours has a 16½ year old cat that's stone deaf and can't hear cars coming....

  11. I think the most important thing of all is to let them make their own mistakes, otherwise, how can they ever learn?

    Also to let the doors be open for non-judgmental conversations. People, including kids, are never, ever looking for advice. They want to hear your experiences, sharing from the heart. I truly believe this is why I have an 18YO friend and many more. I never give her advice but I do share my life with her when she asks. Lectures are so off-putting. My father lectured incessantly but never shared.

    But tell me your story and I'm all yours.


  12. www: Yes, sharing your own experience has to be more welcome than well-meaning advice or lectures. Who takes any notice of someone who's just pontificating?

  13. For me, the fear of interfering has forced me to let go but I see things that could be problematic and live with my heart in my mouth because Seeing them hurt can be hellish

  14. Kylie: I'm sure you must have had your heart in your mouth hundreds of times. Hopefully nothing too disastrous ever happened.