Have you ever been told to, “Let it go?” It has become a bit of a cliche phrase in recent years (thanks to an over-commercialised song), however being told to let things go can be a challenge; especially when you believe it’s something worth fighting for. I sometimes find humour in singing to my daughter Let it go, when she has worried long enough about a problem that it begins to impede her ability to move on. Her audible groan and exaggerated roll of the eyes communicate her dislike of being casually told to get over it; not something a 14 year old can do easily. While I try to make light of her world crushing problem (slightly thoughtless, as I was once 14, and yes it is world crushing at the time) the truth is as a parent there are equal moments when issues arise with our children that we feel we cannot let go of.
The reason for the struggle to let things go can be many factors: pride, the importance of being in control, an unresolved injustice, or a clear understanding that this is not okay. Sometimes, it is when our values are threatened that we are unable to let the matter go. In our desire to stay in control, we cling tightly to what we believe. Unfortunately, this choice can lead to great pain when our growing children neglect to follow our example or openly reject the standard we’ve set.
I have particularly struggled with this issue as my children have moved from the primary years to the secondary. Wise parents who have gone before me, have gently offered this advice: Pick your battles. To pick your battles you need great wisdom in discerning what is of importance to maintain, and what can be let go of. The thought needed to separate these two things requires quiet time and reflection. It’s easy to go into auto-pilot parenting; the natural pattern of doing life, that you’ve done since the kids were little. The trouble with auto-pilot parenting is that you can only fly so far in this mode before an adjustment is called for. Come a little stormy weather, and you are forced to reengage and maybe change course. It’s a reality that as our children grow up they change and so do their needs. What was of utmost importance while they were in the primary years, may need new consideration for the teenage years. It’s equally true, there are some standards that will never change, regardless of age and stage. The challenge then becomes, upholding the standard personally regardless of their obedience.
For example: Our family rule all throughout primary school was: No screen-time until all homework was completed. It was a sensible and manageable pattern of handling the demands of school and understanding the need to relax. (For my kids it was much harder to get them motivated after television and computer games.) However, tension arose when they got to high school and began to play epic video games and watching movies before they even glanced at their homework diaries.
My diligent training in the early years seemed to fly out the window. The more I reminded them of homework, the more rebellious they became. I was forced to reassess my standards; to let things go. I came to accept that this was a vital part of them learning how to manage their time wisely. I admit, it is hard to see them learn the hard way; being tired and grumpy because they’ve left their homework till the last minute. Staying up late each night, then sleeping in and missing breakfast because they’re late for school. Knowing that their grades have dropped in some subjects because they haven’t put in the effort required. Oh, it seems like irresponsible parenting; yet they are learning valuable lessons through the experience.
I’ve begun to see, that when I stop my nagging and interference, and allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices, they are more open to coming to me for help when it’s all gone badly; heeding my advice when they ask for it. I have realised that I remain in control when I choose to let things go. I am no longer manipulated by circumstances or discouraged that I have failed. The choice to move on is my choice, and the outcome is positive. I have improved interactions with my children, I haven’t lost my integrity and I remain in control. Most importantly though, I am released from the burden of holding onto things and fighting. My children are learning valuable life lessons and if they choose to do things different to myself then I need to accept it, let it go and move on. It may not be easy to do, but it is good.
So I challenge you, what do you need to let go of today?
Photo by: Chris Ford