These are the reflections of a mother who is wondering whether she is a little too stifling, too obsessive. A mother of a caring and creative young man who is spreading his wings, seeking his independence, and preparing to leave his nest.
My life commitment statement is to contribute to the conscious development of the self and others, for a sustainable and beautiful future for all. But have I been living this for my teenage son? Am I supporting, or stunting his evolution, creatinghis dependency on us as parents?
Our Children are not our Children
As I feel fidgety and wonder whether I am doing alright as a parent, I take a deep breath and relax as I internalize Kahlil Gibran\’s poem \’On Children\’, which reads:
\’Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life\’s longing of itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts,
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their soul dwells in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not in your dreams. You may strive to be like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer\’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies,
So he loves also the bow that is stable.\’
To me, this poem reminds us that we give birth to our children, but we are also midwives to their own legitimate lives. As they grow, rather than being the drivers of their cars, we are mentors who can sit on the back seat as they drive the vehicle of their own lives. Indeed, mentorship can be seen as being a commitment of care, support, and encouragement. It includes the giving of emotional and moral encouragement, as the mentee is assisted to develop relevant leadership skills and attitudes. In other words, mentors motivate the mentee to bring the best out of them. As they do, the mentors themselves are aware that they are on a learning journey, and that they will be enriched by the relationship they have with their mentee. As a mother, I am truly being transformed by the relationship I have with my son.
Am I a Helicopter Parent, or a Conscious One?
The reality is, however, that in many instances I display the characteristics of a \’helicopter parent\’. Oxford Languages defines such a parent as one ‘who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.’ ‘Some college officials,’ we learn, ‘see all this as the behavior of an overindulged generation, raised by helicopter parents and lacking in resilience.’
‘Oh my,’ I think to myself, ‘I definitely don’t wish to contribute to this social phenomenon neither! How did we get here, to display such characteristics? Is it perhaps that our generation in turn has been well meaning, but in general we had busy parents who taught us to fend for ourselves? And now, us being parents in turn and want to compensate for what we missed by being super present for our children?
I therefore strive to become a ‘conscious parent’ as psychologist and author Dr. Shefali Tsabary coins it; one who enables a child to become confident in taking her own decisions, and embrace their challenges. As mothers and fathers, we may have unresolved issues and experiences, which turn into expectations that could overshadow our own children. Unconsciously, our ego could create dependency in them. This mind-based conditioning may stop us from connecting with our child for who they are, not for who we wish them to be. We may also have cultural expectations of having to display the image of being good, perfect parents, raising a successful child in all aspects. But in reality, what could aid them more is enabling them to make mistakes, to fail. We are afraid that failing will induce pain in them, but the truth is that we need to prepare them for the big wide world.
Indeed, Shefali, in one of her talks said, ‘Conscious parenting is about letting go of a parent\’s ego, desires, and attachments. Instead of forcing behaviors on children, parents should focus on their own language, their expectations, and their self-regulation. Parenting is not just about making a child happy. Children can grow and develop through struggles.’
Hence, however hard it may be for them, let’s teach our teenagers to face their losses, and we can support them in embracing them. Let’s enable them learn to make decisions in a way that life-threatening mistakes (for example, infringements with the law) are avoided.
The Parent as a Coach: Practicalities
So, at this point I am striving to change my ways by acting as a mentor for our boy. A coach as well, that is, a thinking partner, supporting the decisions he takes by himself; giving him the wings so that he can fly to his fullest potential. I strive to be present for him and listen, so that we can co-create solutions when he needs me.
In practical way, here is how we are planning to be parents as coaches. By:
1. Supporting him to become clear about what he wants in his life: what is his vision for his projects, and future health and finances? (Young people who are clear about their vision can negotiate on different matters, explains Counselor ZaharaLegesse). How can we help him in this process?
2. What does independence look like to him, and how is he working towards creating that independence?
3. How will he protect himself from danger and manipulation? How can he make sure he doesn’t fall into the trap of a co-dependent relationship, feeling compelled only to solve the problems of others? But on the contrary, that his relations can become sources of joy and growth?
Final Notes of a Mother who has Let Go
As I embark on the journey of a mother who is letting go of control, I can see the habit of wanting to rescue our child FROM EVERYTHING creeping back. So, I take a deep breath and tell myself:
‘You are trying your best, and that\’s what\’s needed.
You are enough.
You are perfectly imperfect.
Your role is evolving. You have a purpose higher.
You are loving selflessly. You are balanced and non-seeking.
We are enough.
You have trust in life: the future is bright. For as Gibran says, your son’s “soul dwells in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not in your dreams.”’
Thank you, Zahara Legesse Kauffman, for the transformative conversations and support, and dear coaches of the Leadership Development Programme (LDP), for the life-giving learning. And of course, gratitude to my dear son, for having chosen me to be his mother: I wish to be like him when I grow up.
Written by: Nadia Waber