You decided what?! How we allow our children to grow up
We pour our hearts into our children, hoping that our parenting decisions are for the best. Before we know it, they start making choices of their own and we have to start pulling back. “Not this first Communion dress. It feels itchy.” (But it’s just what I always pictured.) “This year, I’m putting my hair in a pony tail for picture day.” (But we won’t be able to tell how long and pretty it is!) “Soccer practice overlaps with football, so I’m giving up soccer.” (I had him pegged for a soccer scholarship.) “This time we broke up for good.” (I was sure she would be our daughter-in-law.) “I’m taking early retirement.” (What? I just retired myself last year!) Our children are not extensions of us; they are unique individuals. Whether it is feeling irrational shame for a child’s inexcusable behavior, intense pride for another’s accomplishments or the desire to over-control, being a parent can be challenging at times. How do we detach from our children’s behaviors?
When do we know it’s time to let go? Your children are God’s children! The Baltimore Catechism stated, “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven.” As parents, we cannot pull our children down paths of our choosing, assuming we know God’s plans for them. “Children … contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents.” (CCC #2227) One reason is because we must trust in God; we just aren’t sure how everything is going to turn out! We pray, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” We teach our children to pray and to listen for God’s voice. Then we must let them learn how respond to God in their daily lives under our guidance.
Feeling a bit over-invested in a child’s behavior? Ask yourself “why?” Are you trying to make up for experiences that you didn’t have as a child? Or do you want to make sure your children don’t feel the heartbreaks that you did? Just as we can’t raise children in a germ-free world, we can’t free them from emotional pain – and shouldn’t help them avoid the consequences of bad decisions. We can model how to be followers of Jesus even when we are faced with life experiences that trouble us.