My daughter at college
My daughter, dog, and friend

We Are Always Letting Go of Our Children

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From the second they are conceived, kids change your life forever. In the build-up to the birth we get prepared for the fundamental shift, but we have no idea what is coming. And it’s heartbreaking as well as life-changing, from the moment they arrive children let you know over and over that you are not in charge, and there is a higher power at work in the universe.

Letting Go of Your Children

As I pulled my son from my wife’s body I learned the sadness quite soon of losing him. The nurses are so helpful. They want to weigh the baby, prick his heel for a blood test, they want to put him in an incubator. I kept my hand on my son’s back through all of it. Sure, I know, obsessive, cute, emotional. I did not want to be apart from my son.

Nearly every step of their lives, your kids will be moving away from you. As a dad, I made a deal with my wife, I would keep heading to work at the big job, and she would stay at home with our son. It was hard leaving for work. Leaving the powder-smelling, warm, lair of the mother and child.

First, We Help With Everything

As a fully-engaged dad, I was always available for my two kids. I never shied away from diaper duty or giving mom a night off. As your kids begin to move autonymously your engagement is more about safety and learning. I was thrilled to get time with my kids. I still had to work a full-time job. And I put in all my available hours in being an enthusiastic co-parent.

Second, We Learn Their Hurts Are Not Ours

Our kids begin to grow and thrive on their own. We begin to learn that their lives and their struggles are different than ours. We can easily project our pain onto our kids. For my wife, she had to learn to let go of our son being a soccer player, like she was. It was a hard lesson. But my son preferred to be hanging from the top of the goal rather than trying to kick a ball through it.

We also feel our kids’ pain. We want what’s best for them. We pray for their health and success. And we simply have to let go of them. The older they get the more independent they become.

Third, It Becomes Apparent that They Need Us Less Each Year

And then it happens, your kids gain their freedom in the form of a car. They no longer need you for transportation. We start losing track of their friends. We no longer know their whereabouts. As we release them, we feel the loss. They are flying now. Sure, they still need us, but the days of their reliance on you are waning.

Fourth, They Leave You Behind

My two kids are now in college. Their connection to me is 100% optional. More importantly, their reliance on me for love and support, while no less, becomes harder to provide. I want to connect with my kids. I want to offer them my advice. But today, it seems, they are more interested in my money. Probably, that will be a request for a good bit of their young adult lives.

It’s hard to let them go. It’s hard not to complain about their lack of response. But, the way forward is love and enthusiasm without strings. I still offer my kids vacations, dinners, and gifts. I also let go of my expectations. They will eventually come back, seeking a relationship with me as a dad. I’m confident in that. And until then, I wait and reach out frequently.

How are your kids changing? What can you do now to assure your close connection with them in the future?


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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