By Sue Fulmore
From the day of their arrival in this world our children depend on us as moms to teach them most of all they know. By responding to their early cries, we teach them that they are loved and that we can be depended on. We move on to instructing them on how to eat with a spoon, how to brush their little teeth, how to tie shoes, pick up their socks, and a million and one other such tasks. We also try to teach good behavior and attitudes such as being kind, saying “thank you”, and saying their prayers.
With so much to teach them it seems like we are always talking. So, we develop a habit of instructing, advising, directing and correcting that gets ingrained after so many years. As children grow into adults we see that our role needs to change.
It might depend on the personality of each child but crossing the 18-year marker brought about new expectations of what my role should be. All of a sudden, I needed to stop all of the talking, or as the British say, “put a sock in it”. I had to begin to see my child as someone who could make her own decisions and would ask if she wanted to hear my perspective. I needed to respect her autonomy and wait to be invited to speak into her life.
My oldest daughter moved away from home 2 months after she turned 18, effectively telling me that she wanted to be separate from me, live as an adult and make her own choices. This left me feeling at a loss of how to navigate this next season. I personally had moved away from home before my 18th birthday to attend college and never really retuned. All of my adult life I have lived over 3,000 miles away from my mom. I did not know what it looked like to “mother” an adult daughter.
Fear was my first reaction. What would happen if I let her go? Would she be safe? Would she eat properly? Would her roommate be dependable? Would I ever have any influence in her life again?
I fumbled my way along, sometimes with success but often with failure, tears, misunderstandings and always many prayers.
I am beginning to see how often I speak to my adult children in ways I would never speak to anyone else. Some of this is in good and loving ways reserved only for those closest to us, but some words are demeaning, questioning and judgmental. I find it difficult to see my child making choices that I disagree with or that I think will have negative consequences and to say nothing. If I was talking to one of my friends’ daughters of the same age, my responses would be quite different, much more understanding and supportive. Perhaps it is my fear of looking bad, my pride, that makes me want to avoid the messy choices my kids might make. What if people judge me for how they choose to live life? Perhaps this pride also fools me into thinking that I know better than my children the way they should live. Do I trust God to lead and direct or am I trying to take His place in their lives? Is this why this letting go is so hard?
I think that I suffer from selective amnesia. I remember all of the dumb things that my kids have done but I forget that I make mistakes as well. I forget that it is often through my poor choices that I received my greatest lessons. I forget that the God who created my daughters is watching over them, pursuing them, and loving them in greater ways that I ever could. I forget that God is their shepherd as well as mine.
As I turn to God, His words in Psalm 23 remind me that He will provide, He will guide, He will be a constant companion full of goodness and love. I allow myself to be comforted and shepherded by my Creator and trust Him to be the Good Shepherd to my girls as well.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right pathsfor his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-4 NIV)
About Sue: I like to think of myself as a prospector for beauty. Treasure can be hidden under many layers and only requires a prospector to bring it to the surface. I seek to unearth the sometimes-hidden beauty in the garden, home, found treasures, fibre art and the lives of others. My passion is to reflect God to the world by creating and calling out this beauty. I live in sunny Alberta with my overflowing closet, robust shoe collection and my retired husband. I am also the proud mama to two beautiful young women.