Letting Go

As a mother of two college students – one of them only two weeks away from graduating –I am continually asking myself, “What would my mom do now?”

I want to be the kind of mother she’s been.

The area that needs the most improvement lately is trying to be a better listener.

Sometimes, I am more of a fixer than a listener.

When my daughters call and tell me their concerns and problems, I instantly, naturally want to fix everything.

I get worked up in my here’s-what-we-need-to-do speech, and then I think of my mom and an inner voice yells, “Shut up Laurie! They only want you to listen, not try to make everything all better! Think of Mom.”

Annie called a couple of weeks ago to tell me that she’s going to Uganda for a service mission with HELP International.

http://help-international.org/uganda

African child

It was an awkward conversation as I felt this rising, confusing objection, and wanted to say in a scolding mom voice: “Ah… no, you are not going to Africa. You are coming home, getting a job, sleeping in your bedroom down the hall from me. You are going to sing in the shower, bake cookies, have parties, and    scatter your clothes all over the floor, and play the piano for me. …just like you’ve always done.

I stammered a bit and kept thinking of my mom, and what she would do.

Just listen.

I calmed down as the conversation went on, and I told her she had to be patient with me as I got my head around her new, exotic, and oh-so-foreign-to-me plan.

In a moment of weakness, I blurted out, “Annie, I am just not ready for you to be this grown up. I know you have an adventurous spirit and I am trying to be supportive, but I am fighting some powerful mom instincts here that make me want to fling my arms around you and keep you close to me forever. I still see you as a little girl, not as a world traveler and humanitarian!”

I reminded myself of Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when his daughter, also named Annie, told him she was in love and wanted to get married. He looked across the kitchen table and saw those grown up words coming out of a little girl’s mouth.

While it’s a hilarious scene, it’s also painful to realize I’m Steve Martin.

I’m not transitioning well from seeing my daughters as my little girls to seeing them as independent, adventurous women whose passions are taking them in directions that feel further and further away from me.

Cover of "Father of the Bride (15th Anniv...

Cover via Amazon

And, I know they need me to listen more than advise.

They need me to support more than protect.

Yet my adviser and protector instincts are not easily tamed.

In my conversation about Africa with Annie, I vacillated between being supportive and curious and treating her like she was 10 years old, when I would have said, “Well, you certainly are not going to Africa. Now, finish your homework so we can get you bathed and ready for bed.”

As I navigate the new waters of parenting adult children, I think of my mom constantly and wonder how she did it.

I call her often and say, “Mom, really, how did you do it?”

I’m still trying to figure it out.

I think the real answer is that she did it a day, and a conversation at a time just like I am.

I hope my daughters can understand that this “letting go” part of parenting is not easy.

help letter annie

But, of course, like me, they will only really learn it when they become parents.

Then,  I hope they’ll call me for advice and say, “Mom, how did you do it?”

Comments

  1. Ahhhh…I can relate. I am a “fixer” too. It is SO hard to just listen. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Denise Ables Belyavsky says:

    Laurie–I am on a parallel track with you and can relate to so, so many of your feelings! As you know, Zoe is an adventurer and traveler too. She’s taken off to some far off, somewhat scary (to me) locales and we all got through it (as did Rachel!). And now she wants more! Ugh. She just announced that she is working on collecting scholarship money so she can go to Senegal ( Africa) to do some sort of research project this summer. And talking of going to Israel to do some sort of internship down the road. Hang in there Laurie!

    • Now we now why Annie and Zoe are friends! I am proud of both of them and cheering them on at the same time that I want to hold on to them at the same time. We can’t do that though, can we? They are like the ships that we must let sail.

  3. Denise Ables Belyavsky says:

    I wish I could have said it that succinctly myself. Exactly so!

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