By Gail Kittleson
Looking back over our parenting years, it’s easy to moan, “If only I’d known then what I know now.” But one strategy I later learned would have revolutionized my skills.
Unfortunately, 12-step concepts like stepping back entered my life too late. At least I can use them with our grandchildren!
I wish I’d known that….
- Interfering with youth’s normal ups and downs blocks learning opportunities;
- Each of us is responsible for ourselves. This gets complicated when our children are young, but it’s so true as they become adolescents.
The transition from fulltime caregiver/teacher/mentor to part-time, on-call adviser can be traumatic for parents as children. But maybe a word picture like this one would have helped me back then.
A baby bunny whose mama birthed him in our 18-inch high wheel rim eventually had to find his way down to earth. A little bruising ensued in the process, most likely, but carrying nine offspring over the side, one by one, proved too much for his mother.
At one point, she gave the sign and stood back. Sure enough, the little ones toppled over the edge, unscathed, and happed off to greater adventures.
A mama robin cannot take her fledglings’ first flights for them, but must step back to watch. And, unable to rescue her offspring if they fail, she must sometimes accept suffering.
Our children need to learn by doing, by experimentation. It’s scary for us, and not all experiments succeed. But James Joyce wrote, “Mistakes are the portals to discovery.” And consider this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
If we hinder our children from the learning potential of mistakes, we do them an injustice. Every time they fall down, they glean the know-how to get up again. In order for our beloved namesakes to become realistic, responsible adults, we must let go as we step back and cheer them on. The sooner parents learn this lesson, the better for both parties.
About Gail Kittleson
Gail writes from northern Iowa, where she and her husband enjoy gardening and grandchildren. Her memoir, Catching Up With Daylight, paved the way for fiction writing, and she’s hooked for life.
Her debut novel, In This Together, released late last year. After World War II steals her only son and sickness takes her husband, Dottie Kyle begins cooking and cleaning at the local boarding house. The job and small town life allow her to slip into a predictable routine, but her daughters and grandchildren live far away, and loneliness is Dottie’s constant companion when she’s not working. Al Jensen, Dottie’s long-time neighbor, has merely existed since his wife died. Al passes his time working for his son at the town’s hardware store. However, he still copes with tragic memories of serving in WWI. Being with Dottie makes him happy, and their friendship grows until, for him, love has replaced friendship. When Dottie’s daughter has health issues, will Al’s strength and servant’s heart be enough to win Dottie’s love and affection? Can Dottie’s love for her family enable her to face her fear of crowds an d enclosed spaces and travel halfway across the country to help the daughter who so desperately needs her?