Beyond Letting Go: Holding on to “I’m Sorry”

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The trick to parenting is NOT in learning to let go; it is in learning to apologize when you don’t.

We’ve all experienced that moment.

Our kids are growing up.  We know they are – and that they are fully capable of handling most issues without our careful attention and oversight.

Truth is, long after our kids have become marginally independent and responsible, we’re still flying on parent auto-pilot. (ever heard of helicopter parenting?)

It’s understandable, really.  We’ve been in various stages of food-cutting, nose-blowing, tear-catching, and butt-wiping for about a decade now. Toilet paper and wet wipes dominate our existence. Caring for our babies in an ‘extremely-loud-and-incredibly-close’ way has almost become an addiction.  If we did anything else every single day, multiple hours a day for ten years – we’d be in treatment!

The trick to parenting really is NOT in learning to let go, though many experts would tell you that.  The trick to parenting is in learning to apologize when we don’t let go.

But that’s my kid we’re talking about! No way I’m gonna just let go.  But on the days when I hold too tightly, I need to be able to confess it.  And they need to hear my apology. Maybe something like ‘I’m Sorry, son…I’ve just wiped your butt for so long I forgot you can now deal with your own crap.’

Recently, I had to do this with my eldest son.  He’s a senior in high school.  He is amazingly responsible and thoughtful.  He runs his own photography business and has for the last four years, doing art shows and gallery openings around the state.  He’s in the top 10% of his graduating class (or close enough if you’re rounding).  He’s the editor of the yearbook, the historian of National Honors Society, and recently made the state qualifying round for Business Professionals of America.

So don’t ask me why I freaked out and had a gigantic meltdown when he rescheduled his date to work concessions for the baseball game.  But I did.  He was making phone calls and apologies before I could even end my rant when I suddenly realized.

This kid can wipe his own butt!!  Why am I acting like this?

I immediately apologized – told him I had full faith and confidence in his ability to handle this (and every) situation in a completely appropriate manner – hugged his neck and stepped out of the room.

My single prayer is that he heard “I’m sorry” more loudly than he heard my rhetoric on responsibility.

What are your kids hearing from you?  I bet they’re carrying their own toilet paper….

by Darren Sutton

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