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So They Can Fly

How easily we can forget our most valued gift- the power to make our own choices and create the life we desire.

As our children mature and begin to exercise control over their own choices and decisions, we watch them do the same and often experience a new emotion, a new pull. Having had our own experiences, made our own mistakes, and being grounded in our own ethics and knowledge of right from wrong, we see them try their own wings in any small way- perhaps a way we don't understand or a way that concerns us for them, and a new type of fear sets in. The subtext of our facial expressions, worries, and concern- voiced or unvoiced- is that we do not trust them to do what we know WE are perfectly capable of. How can we shift this from happening so that the message they get from us is that we DO trust them?

The parenting pendulum so easily swings between images of a helicopter hovering or a bird bravely trying its wings for the first time along with self-accusations of neglect should it fall and not fly. Staying on our own page, so to speak, is a paramount characteristic of showing up with dignity in all of our relationships- and relationships are everything. So, how do we know as a parent what our part is, and that it is all we can- and should- do?

The irony is that even our perceived distrust in our children is a catalyst that acts to drive them further to make decisions that are likely not in their best interest, for their desire to make wise choices will be trumped by the need to prove their right to control their own life in a power struggle. As we make good and wise decisions in our own lives, apologize when we are wrong, and teach our children these values and what is important to us, there is no doubt they already know it. If they choose a different path, no amount of shaming, blaming or criticizing will change that course.

As Mrs. Stanton, in Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter, put it: "I don't know how my boys will come out...but I work, pray, hope, and hang to them; that's all I know to do!" And: "...what are you going to do? I can't go through the world with my girls and meet men for them. I trained them just as carefully as possible before I started them out; that was all I could do." And when asked what if one of her children had gotten badly hurt while trying his wings in learning to ride a horse, she wisely replied: "They'd have taken him out, and brought him to me, and I'd have worked with all the strength and skill God has given me, and if it were possible to us, he would be saved, and if it were not, it would be a proud moment for a woman to offer a boy like that to the God who gave him. One would have nothing to be ashamed of!... Before long you will find out...that the fountain head of tears and laughter lies in the same spot deep in a woman's heart."

Mrs. Stanton is a great example of a mother who chooses her faith over her fear. And that is the key. Fear is always the root of inappropriate control, tempting us to step off our own page and try to write another's story. When that pull of fear begins to play its song in our mother heart, and tell us stories of all the what ifs, we must learn to recognize it for what it is and put it in its place. We must surrender, again and again, to the faith and trust we have in our kids to know what is right and wrong as we have taught them, and to ultimately choose what is good and right, and to follow the best path for them. We can also choose to exercise the faith that should they choose to learn this the hard way, they will learn from their own mistakes and always know they have our open arms to run to.

We can choose faith over fear, over and over, and send our kids the loud and clear message that yes, we do trust them. Listen to them. Find out where they are coming from. Share your beliefs and values. Then let go... so they can fly!

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