Today is one of the lasts of the lasts. I celebrated my youngest’ thirteenth birthday. One of the milestones of lasts. The last child to leave childhood. The last child to become a teenager.
I was teaching child development and parenting to freshman girls when this child turned three, realizing I would no longer have a toddler. This last brought tears.
We’ve had the last preschool graduation, and the last elementary Christmas program. Yesterday was the last time to take birthday treats into a classroom.
Having released one child and in process of releasing number two this school year, I look at our list of lasts and realized these milestones are important. I’ll confess there’ve been moments in parenting I’ve wished away. And there are moments I’d go back and cling to.
I’m learning releasing children begins the minute they are born. Having a mindset that our children are on loan to us from our Father makes it smoother when it’s time to let go. Here are some other things I’ve learned in raising to release.
1. Expecting independence when they’re young is important. The releasing process at eighteen becomes easier when you see them thinking independently and taking responsibility at earlier ages. Once a child is old enough to master a skill, it’s important to let them be responsible for it at age appropriate levels. Helping them push through situations and tasks with guidance rather than doing it for them fosters confidence and security along with independence. This gives parents confidence, too. When releasing happens, we rest easier because we know they can make sound decisions, can problem-solve, and can do things without us by their sides. This gives parents security, too.
2. Letting them develop their skills and interests separate from ours is important. It was a rude awakening when my daughter was five and I realized she was more like her dad than her mom. My expectations were that she’d have my interests. It was a good lesson for me to learn, seeing my child as an individual, not an extension of me. It’s been a blessing to see kids develop their own unique interests, places where they blossom.
3. Teaching them to develop their own personal relationship with God is important. Encouraging them to have personal bible study or devotional time when young begins making God personal to them. Training them to pray on their own, modeling with them how to talk to God in prayer about the daily things in life makes God real to children. As my kids have entered adolescence and adulthood, I’ve been able to trust God with their decisions because I know the kids have consulted Him, too.
4. Training them to think forward is important. Walking through future consequences of present choices is important. “Don’t ever go out with someone you wouldn’t consider marrying” has been a common phrase in our house since kids were in elementary school, wanting the kids to realize there’s more to relationships than just thinking someone is cute. Habits of judging good character starts young, and influences on character development also starts young.
5. Developing your own personal skills and interests while developing those of your child’s is important. Children need to know life does not revolve around them. They need to know parents are not on this earth to pick up after them. Releasing a child begins when we also release ourselves to be things other than being mom or dad. It’s good for kids to see their parents in other roles because it gives them strength and confidence in developing their own skills. This looks different for each phase and stage, but its important for children to see. When the children are gone, this helps the transition.
So the thirteen year old’s friends are gone. This is the mess left behind. I’ve picked up the food, he’ll pick up the rest, and then I’ll sweep. Training in action, releasing in process.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, are children born in one’s youth. Psalm 127:4