Recently, my 10-year old son was participating in a fund-raising project at his school. On the day of the event, my wife told him that she was planning to go to the school to volunteer. My son stopped in his tracks and sighed.
“Mom, please don’t come to the school,” he said.
These words caught my wife off guard. My son is in fourth grade now and my wife has volunteered at this event since he was in kindergarten.
“Why not?” She asked.
“Because I want to accomplish some things on my own,” he said.
Although she was disappointed, my wife agreed to stay home. I could relate to her disappointment. I felt a similar sting two years ago when I was planning to take my daughter to her 5th grade Father/Daughter dance.
I had been looking forward to the dance all year because it was the last event of her elementary school career. I wanted to savor those last few moments and dance with her one more time. But she didn’t want to go.
My heart was broken. I was being dumped by my 10-year old daughter and I didn’t like it one bit. Although I couldn’t see it then, I now realize that her refusal to attend the dance was her way of asserting her independence.
Watching your child pull away can be painful. In your mind, they will always be little babies. You want to protect them and support them and help them make good choices in life. But you have to let them grow up. It’s not easy, but it is necessary.
I’ve finally learned to give my children the room they need to explore and grow. This leeway has allowed them to learn from their mistakes and become more confident. However, I haven’t totally released the reigns. I regularly have to step in and assert my parental authority. I haven’t found that magical balance yet, but I’m working on it.
My youngest son is 6 years old and he’s already showing signs of wanting to pull away. The day will come when my wife and I will have to back off and give him more freedom. But until that day arrives, he will continue to be our baby boy.