This week is a big streeeeetch for me as a mum.
My 8 year old is off on her first school residential. Eek!
I've done this before with our foster children, but even though they were older, each time they went away somewhere new felt like a stretch to me. I worry about every possible eventuality and consider how I can prepare and protect them, even though most of it will never happen.
Letting go and allowing your child to make their way in the world is hard, especially when you know they will, inevitably face challenges. I don't want to wrap them up in cotton wool and I do want them to gain life experience, confidence and resilience, but at the same time I secretly do want to protect them from all difficulty and discomfort. It's the paradox of parenting.
I have been reminded by a quote a good friend sent me when I was pregnant.
“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” Elizabeth Stone
I'm really feeling this at the moment. When our children stretch so do we! I know that's one of the reasons why these trips are so valuable for building confidence and resilience, but it can be such an emotional wrench.
My 8 year old is actually really excited - at the moment - which is great as I was expecting more wobbles. I've done my best to prepare her, but the reality is that whatever I do I have limited control of the outcome, even if I feel very responsible. Within this are her choices, how the trip leaders approach things and a whole heap of variables over which I have little or no influence. I just have to let go and hope.
Does this stop me feeling like the responsibility for it's success is entirely on my shoulders?
No! But I am learning when to not to hold onto that feeling for so long. To recognise the value of that discomfort - for me and my children - and to accept the need for uncertainty and the vulnerability of letting go.
I do this falteringly, but nearly 14 years of parenting has, at least, given me a lot of practice and I know the neuroscience backs up the importance of this discomfort and stretch for my children to be able to grow.
Given I'm not sure I'll ever have this one fully nailed - or that I'm supposed to (I'll always be a mum) - I'm embracing feeling wobbly and have some Easter chocolate ready chilling in the fridge! If I haven't eaten it all by Friday I'll take that as a win.
Julie is a qualified coach who supports parents so that they can confidently support their child and find practical ways to make family life a calmer, happier experience. Follow the link to book a free 30 minute chat to find out how she can help you and your family.