Letting My Child Go: A Practice in Saving Me

Yellow buses crawl across the front parking lot, puffing and hissing with each nudge. A mother shuffles her small herd across the sidewalk, smiling and scolding them in turn. Bright headlights wind one after another off the crowded main street, blinking in the early morning light.

I crane to watch out the side window as my barely five-year-old son totters up the concrete steps and into the cavernous wooden door. I cringe at the thought of him traversing those long hallways alone.

I know he’s not alone, but he doesn’t have me.

Or, is it that I don’t have him.

Sending a child off to school, especially to Kindergarten, tests not only the child’s resilience but also the parent’s resolve.

For me, the temptation to do too much for my son often overwhelms me.

I want to teach him to think and do for himself, not to wait for me to do it for him. I want him to be independent, a leader not a follower. I want to give him the tools he needs to succeed when I’m not around.

Because I won’t be around. Either in the eight hours a day I’m at work or the decades he walks around without my guidance, or perhaps even my knowledge, as to where he is or what he’s doing.

I won’t be there.

The first week of Kindergarten brought this reality very clearly home to me.

I struggled for months with the decision as to whether to send him to public school or try to afford a private school. I came to a final decision approximately 15 times before I finally decided to stick with the local public elementary school.

As I attempted to make this decision, I simultaneously struggled to get him “ready” for kindergarten. I wanted him to be able to dress and potty independently, to follow directions without being reminded 100 times, to entertain himself for more than five seconds, and to make simple choices without waging war against his mother. That’s a tall order for any five-year-old and single parent.

If I were graded on my ability to step back and allow him to find the tag in the back of his shirt, pull it over his head, and get stuck in the arm hole—I would fail.

He wouldn’t fail. He would learn that his head doesn’t fit in the arm hole.

I instead learn that if I pull the shirt on for him, he expects me to get him dressed again the next morning, and the next and the next.

Finally, five years into this parenting gig, I’ve come to realize that I must set the parameters at the onset of any new behavior or activity, because he quickly catches on if mommy is having a push over day (or year).

My number one job is to give him the tools he needs to be independent and self-reliant. That means allowing him to make mistakes, to do for himself, and to walk through those wide-open doors into a world I have no control over.

No, wait, come back! Mommy wants a kiss!

This post was first published in a new column in Front Porch Magazine. Read it cover to cover and find many motivational and inspiring stories.

2 Responses to “Letting My Child Go: A Practice in Saving Me”
  1. Barb Taylor says:

    As the Kindergarten teacher for 27 years I felt the pain of the parents and the weight of the job before me. The children were all precious and blooms waiting to open. That day tugged at many heart strings and for good reason. If we didn’t care all would be lost. And now 14 years after I retired from that wonderful privilege of teaching kindergarten I left my 18 year old at college. The feeling is the same: did I give him the tools he needs to be independent and self-relient. With God’s help we will all get through it and our blooms will continue to open and grow.

    • Very true Barb! This is just the first of many ‘good-byes’ and adjustments I will make as a parent. I look forward to each stage, but I hope to always maintain the goals of doing what is best for him. I’m sure your son is thriving in college. Once you provide the groundwork, you must leave it up to the child to bring their potential to fruition.

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