I’ll be fine now, Mom

I have recently returned from a family holiday in Mozambique. As with many young children, on previous occasions of taking Rachel to the beach, she has been a little anxious about the noise of the crashing waves and even the foam that laps the shoreline. In fact, last year while on a two week holiday, we ended up having a large ‘beach bucket’ for her to play in whilst her brother splashed around in the shallow waters.

The afternoon that we arrived on our getaway, the weather was far from ideal- it was breezy, overcast and even drizzling. But weather is never a deterrent for kids at the beach and at my suggestion of a stroll, the kids jumped in delight. We rolled up our pants, leaving my husband securing our table at a beachside cafe, and took a walk down to the water’s edge. At first, Rachel ran up to me and hollered, “Pick me up please, Mommy”, still a bit unsure of the ocean roars and unfamiliar ebb and flow. I wrapped her in my arms, and we walked a little further, before I placed her back down next to me. She grabbed my hand and held on tightly as we continued to edge our way slowly towards the folded waves which gently sloshed against the wet sand. I waited for Rachel to take the lead, and she dragged me along, until her little sandy toes (and mine) were being water-kissed by white foam. As the tiny waves rolled in, we stood there, jumping over them together and I watched her fear turn into enjoyment and excitement. After a short while, Rachel looked up at me, squeezed my hand, and confidently exclaimed, “I’ll be fine now, Mom”, and with this, she let go and took a few more steps into the water on her own.

This got me thinking about the manner in which we support our children in life, scaffold them until they can accomplish on their own. We are hard-wired to protect our children, we want to do things for them and make life easier. We want to hold on, to protect, to carry, to ensure they don’t get knocked down by the waves in life. But all too often, the letting go part becomes very difficult and by holding on for too long, we end up holding them back. In doing too much, we inhibit them from developing a sense of accomplishment. I see this happening all too often with parents and children of all ages- toddlers to teens.

Our children will never realize their potential, or develop independence, confidence and self-esteem, if we hold on and continually step in for them. Sometimes it’s quicker and easier to just get tasks done without our kids fumbling over them, but it is in their best interests for us to take a step back, take a breath, and have the patience to let them work things out in their own way, and in their own time. If we jump in at the first sign of distress, our children will never learn perseverance; they will never know the joy that comes when success is reached after the struggle. Our role as parents is to assist our children in developing into independent adults who are self-sufficient not only physically and financially, but emotionally too. If we hold on too tight, we do them a disservice and rob them of magical opportunities.

Rachel knew that I was behind her as we stood on the shoreline, but by letting go of her, she had the freedom to jump over the waves, splash around, have fun, and leave behind of the fears she initially had. Her confidence and her belief in her abilities grew right there in that moment on the beach. She knew I would be there if she was knocked down and that I would keep an eye on her (and have a bag of dry clothes for her to change into), but the joy she experienced and self-assurance she gained by being able to conquer the shoreline on her own, spread widely across her beaming face.

We can’t live life for our children, even when we can see they may make mistakes and be tossed about in rocky seas. We can give them the early support and guidance they need, then stand back, and watch them grow. Don’t deprive your children of developing grit and determination, of the ability to conquer obstacles independently, and of the sheer delight of realising their potential. Let your children go, and in doing so, watch them become all they possibly can be.

Posted in