As infants, our kids depend on us for literally everything. We even help our babies burp, which apparently they can’t do on their own. One of our primary missions as parents of these growing kids is to teach them to eventually become independent, and (gulp) not rely on us so much. I recently wrote a post about letting go of children as they grow, and how sometimes it’s the kids who know they are ready for the next stage even before we parents do. After I wrote that article, I sat back and realized it really boils down to the child saying and/or showing, “Hey Mom or Dad, I’ve got this,” and parents being ready to agree, trust their child and let go.
For example, you are hesitant to give your child finger food, but she eats a Cheerio for the first time and looks up at you with a twinkle in her eye, “No problem. I’ve got this, Mom.”
Your toddler lets go of your hand and takes his first few steps and looks up at you with a confident, “I’ve got this, Mom”, before he falls kerplop on his bottom, and gets up to try again.
You don’t know how your child will separate from you at pre-school, but he lets go of your hand and takes his first few tentative steps into his new classroom, looking back at you with a hint of “I’ve got this, Mom” even though there are tears in both of your eyes.
You let go of the back of your child’s bike as she rides for the first time on her two-wheeler without training wheels, and she yells triumphantly, “I’ve got this, Mom!”
Your child stands at the end of the diving board, toes overhanging the edge. He closes his eyes and jumps. He pops up from under the water and swims to the ladder, “I’ve got this, Mom!”
You watch your child get on the school bus for Kindergarten and as he looks out the window at you he gives you a smile and a big thumbs-up, as if to say, “I’ve got this, Mom.”
Your child joins his or her first soccer/t-ball/swim team/dance class and after a great practice says, “I totally rocked this, Mom!”
Your child breaks his or her leg/arm/finger. You hug him and hold him and reassure him that everything will be ok. He grits his teeth through tears and says, “I know mom. I’ve got this.”
You take your child to a friend’s house for her first sleepover, and she gives you a happy hug goodbye, “I’ve got this, Mom!”
You take your son to ice hockey practice where parents are no longer allowed in the locker room. You aren’t sure how your son will put on his pads and skates without you. Without skipping a beat, he says, “I’ve got this mom.”
You visit your child at sleep away camp, and though there are some tears, your child reassures you, “I’m good. I’ve got this, Mom.”
Your child graduates from elementary school, and while you cry big tears in the audience, she looks proudly back at you from the stage and beams, “I’ve got this, Mom!”
You wait with your child for the bus to middle school and you cringe with worry, but he says determinedly, “I’ve got this, mom.”
You give your child a cell phone, and have a discussion about responsible use of technology. You talk frankly about social media, texting, cyber bullying, passwords and so on. Knowing your child will make some mistakes with the cell phone you are about to give to him or her, you hear them say excitedly, “I’ve got this, mom.”
You drop your child and her friends off at the mall for the first time without you, and you remind her to text you every half hour to check-in. She rolls her eyes at you and says, “I’ll be fine mom. I’ve got this.”
We’ve all witnessed these “I’ve got this, Mom” moments. I can already see our next “I’ve got this, Mom and Dad” milestones on the horizon – dating, driving, college and beyond. Oh lord. Naturally, kids will keep pushing for more freedom, responsibility and independence and when they do, we’ll know that it’s probably time to give them a little more rope. We’ve had to put our confidence and trust in them along the way, whether it was at school, in the locker room or at the mall, and let them go. Of course we’ve had our fair share of setbacks when our kids have shown they aren’t quite ready to handle something (I’ll take that phone back thank you very much), and times we’ve disagreed about what they are ready for and when. The mistakes are part of the process, I guess. For the most part, it seems that kids really do know when they are ready to take on a new stage or challenge, and sometimes we as parents can recognize it too.
Last month, I took our oldest child to her high school orientation. We sat there in the car for a moment, and we each took an audibly deep “holy shit” kind of breath as we gazed at the huge high school building in front of us. I looked at my daughter who is now nearly my height, so grown up, embarking on this new phase in her life. I gave her a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the arm, wishing so many good things for her. As she got out of the car, I leaned over and said to her with a smile, “Hey, you’ve got this.”
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