But he needs me.
He can't do this on his own.
I'm only being helpful....
It's so hard to let go. The process starts the moment they arrive, and doesn't stop until long after we send them off to live independently.
As my two younger children headed back to school this week, it occurred to me that my oldest child will flying out of the nest in just two short years. Now, you may say, "Chill, lady...you've got TWO years! Relax, Rome wasn't built in a day. You've got plenty of time."
This is, of course, true. However, it also occurs to me that we've now been living in Los Angeles exactly two years this week. Two years? What the what?! Are you sure? I just got here. Where did time go?
So, knowing that the next two years will fly by at warp speed as well, and as I'm seeing many friends sending their "babies" off to college in the coming weeks, I thought about the tools I'd love to see my son have as he transitions from being a helpless dependent with no sense of where to get his next meal, ("Uhh, Mom, isn't there an app for that?") to how he will become a completely independent contributing member of society. #parentinggoals
I could write an entire book on this topic (hmmm, there's an idea...) but in a nutshell, the top five gifts (i.e., lessons) that parenting experts, college admission counselors, and your child's future hiring manager would beg you to impart on them as they transition into adulthood include:
Tip #1: Fail with a Capital F.
Tip #2: Don't Chase IG. (Instant Gratification or Instagram, for that matter)
Tip #3: Chunk it.
Tip #4: No Regrets.
Tip #5: Belt it from the Mountaintops.
Fail (often) with a Capital F.
When we don't let them experience the highs and the lows of trying something new, we also deprive them of experiencing true joy in life.
As parents, we're so programmed to not want them to be in pain, that we start removing opportunities which we view as potential set-backs before they even try. Possible defeat.
Well, defeat is a good teacher. It teaches us what we want, who we are and what we're made of (if we let it).
So let him take a swing.
When he first tried to walk, he came at you looking like Frankenstein, fell flat on his face and starting wailing, did you throw in the towel and say, "Well, that's it, pin the kid down. This is obviously hopeless!"
Tip: Let him try. (encourage him to try)
Try out for the sports team in the sport he's barely played. SO he gets cut. And that's ok.
Here comes the juicy learning opportunity for him: How did it feel? Would you like to get better and try again next year? What do you think it will take to get there? What help can I provide you in reaching that goal?
Or, once they get their license, let themdrive to high school (on the 405!) or across town for the Dodgers game. Of course, we're hoping for a safe passage here, which is nerve-wracking, but at some point we need to start inching out the rope. It starts by letting them drive to get gas, then high school and finally the open road.
We've conditioned ourselves think that byholding on tighter, they won't fail.
And you're right, for the moment they won't. But when the time comes for them to attempt something on their own (and you are no where to be found), not only will they not have the tools they need to try, but they won't have the self-talk telling them what's possible. (that's an entirely different blog, more on that later)
Inch out the rope. Let go. He can do it.
Instant Gratification doesn't lead to longterm happiness.
Find ways to create opportunities for him to understand what it means to delay gratification.
We are all so driven by that ping of our phones. The blissful sound that triggers the dopamine which floods the brain, oozing in warm, soft messages which whisper to our ego, "You are loved". So when it isn't happening, scarcity mentality kicks in and & panic runs rampant.
Tip: Unplug & turn off the phones by 9pm. (Leave them off, charging in the kitchen over night. Out of sight.) Leave the last 1-2 hours of the evening before bed for interaction... with each other. Gasp.
Tough to do with busy schedules and maybe you only do it a few nights a week. But just imagine the benefits even 30-50% improvement could bring. Would clarity of each others hopes and desires, support, connection and love be worth it?
Teach and model (if/when you can) good practice habits. You can talk about what it takes to succeed, but if you can have them experience it for themselves, they will then (eventually) be able to transfer (with a little coaching) the learning to other parts of their lives.
My oldest son, has to do summer reading. "It's pointless, Mom. I'll just read the Spark notes and 'phone in the answers' to the study guide. It's all good. It's what 'everybody' does."
(Ok, maybe that isn't exactly what he said, but that's what I heard.)
So, as a way to teach him how to "chunk" the goal and not have to eat the entire elephant in one bite, I helped set up a "book club" with several of his classmates. They cut the 2 books into four parts, we used a tutor to help facilitate the learning and the boys met every couple weeks throughout the summer to go through the study guide.
Tip: The (hopeful) outcome is that the wiring is being laid down so that he remembers, " when I plan the work up front, stick to the schedule and follow-up, I am successful." Perhaps I'll need to continue to help him with the scheduling, the follow-up and the reminders to read (for now), but the long-term goal is that in two years, when he's on his own, he can pull this "little tool" out of his "handy dandy toolbox", recall that it actually was beneficial to read The Illiad and Brave New World, and realizes it doesn't have to be painful. Voila!
Teaching them that when they take little calculated risks, they are moving themselves in the direction of their desires. It doesn't have to be a HUGE leap. Little steps will get you there.
My middle child, Parker, doesn't like heights, but he does love a good challenge. A couple of summers ago, he got stuck at the top of the high diving board. With 10 kids behind him waiting to go, crying and fearful, he was too scared to jump, but too frightened to back down the ladder.
Now what? He was at a total impass.
I gave him the out and said, "It's fine, Parker. You don't need to jump." A couple minutes later, feeling completely dejected, he eventually shimmied down the ladder.
Not 20 minutes later, he came over to me, "Mom, I want to face my fears. Will you help me go off the high dive?"
Tip: Find the little opportunities in the every day which are building the scaffolding to help them take risks and have no regerts. I mean regrets.
(Oh, and be prepared, as a side bonus, it usually forces you to face a few of your own as well!)
Sing from the Mountaintops.
Just imagine.... you've reached the mountain top. It's the highest point of Machu Picchu. The air is crisp and clear, your lungs are burning, you are completely exhausted and you couldn't be any prouder of yourself.
One of the most powerful acts highly successful people employ, is free.
What if f I told you it was available to you right now. Would you use it?
Here it is....
Tip: Act as if you already have. Whatever the goal or desire or outcome you wish to bring into being, spend 5 minutes a day visualizing it.
You made it to the top of Machu Picchu. Smell the crispness of the air and the freshness of the grass. Feel the burn of your lungs at 8,000ft and the soreness of your thighs which have just gotten you to this moment. This is a perfect moment. And you created it.
What are you creating next?