Being a mom for the first time was thrilling, rewarding, and the hardest thing I had ever done. I had these ideas of what my new little son should become and how he should act. But he had his own ideas. Though I tried to have a close relationship with him, he never quite measured up to what I expected. He made mistakes, questioned things I felt strongly about, and fought back on my ideals. It got to a point that I couldn’t wait for him to graduate, move out on his own and “realize all I had done for him.” I had failed as a parent to produce the man I was supposed to produce and I blamed it on him. My relationship with him was one of distrust and disappointment.
I remember praying inside my head about it in frustration and telling God, “I give up on him! I don’t know how to make him be what he needs to be.” In reply, I heard a whisper telling me, “I never gave up on you. Let go of your control and let him grow.”
My prayer quickly changed to, “How do I do that? How do I sit back and just watch him make mistakes.” The answer came, "Just let go of your ideal for him and let him figure it out. He'll be just fine.”
I began to look back at my life and realized it was through some of my stupid mistakes that I learned the most about what I really wanted and who I really was. It was in trying to please others and meet others expectations that I felt the most lost. And I made a decision to change my perspective; not to give up, but to let go.
The first thing I let go of as a parent was my idea of what my children should be. The second was that my child's choices determined my worth. It didn't matter what others thought, my success or failure as a parent had nothing to do with my child's choices. I could only control mine! This was so freeing! And I realized their choices didn't define them either! I began to see their value as an individual outside of their struggles.
I changed and simplified many of our rules and changed my approach when they were broken. Instead of being upset at how stupid a child was being, my husband and I would talk to them about it, why they felt they needed to break that rule, why they thought we had the rule, and what an appropriate consequence should be.
I asked more questions about what they wanted, what rules they thought were appropriate, and reassured them that it didn’t matter what mistakes they made, I had their back and I saw their worth. I talked to them more about their thoughts, dreams, goals, fears and ideals. And I listened to their feedback on how I could improve and do better as their mom. I don't always get it right, either.
My sister has an amazing relationship with her daughter-in-laws and I asked her how she did it. She said she accepted them right where they were and loved them there. I knew this was the same approach I needed for my children. So I accepted where my son was and asked him how I could support him in HIS dreams and goals, not mine. He gets to define his failures and successes, I get to council, support and cheer.
I have an amazing relationship with my son now. He’s married with 2 kids, and I feel a closeness to his wife and children as well. Is he living the exact life I pictured for him? No, but he is living HIS life, not mine. My other children have all thanked him and me for going through the hard so that they have more freedom to express themselves, chase THEIR dreams, try new things, make mistakes and not have it define them, and know I’ll be there to help them navigate without judgment. I am their biggest cheerleader and fan! I have their back! I am no longer afraid of what they will become because I believe they were born with the ability to figure that out. But I am there for them when they succeed AND when they fail. And because of that, they have been patient with me as I grow, learn, fail and improve. They have my back!
Parenting has been so much easier and joyful since I made this paradigm shift. This life is a time of growth; a time to make mistakes, learn from them, and improve ourselves. It is what “Grace” is all about. And if I expect grace from others, the first place I need to start is showing grace to my family. We are each perfectly imperfect. We are all unfolding!