Letting Go in the Parenting Journey

Last school year I co-facilitated a monthly mindfulness community meet-up with a local high school counselor.  During our meet-ups we met with local parents and educators to talk about secular mindfulness for youth and we focused on a different topic each time.  During one of our meet-ups, the topic was Acceptance.  Acceptance is a fundamental aspect of mindfulness practice- to be intently aware of the present moment without judgment- to not get caught up in the stories of our mind, to let go and accept the present moment for what it is.  What I realized after our meet-up is that the notion of acceptance, of letting go, is a core aspect of parenting and one that evolves as our journey evolves. 

As a parent of younger kids, often I find myself needing to let go of the chaos that has become the norm in our lives.  Letting go of the fact that once again you would never be able to tell that the cleaners were just at our house a few hours ago. Letting go of the fact that my children love to interrupt me when I’m working from home.  Letting go of how I absurd I must look carrying 4 helium balloons and a snack bag at the auto-body shop, while trying to speak to the mechanic and tend to two girls who of course have to go to the bathroom right at that very moment. Letting go of the fact that I’m just plain exhausted at the end of the day. When our kids are young, the act of letting go is often about accepting that your life is more chaotic…even sometimes more neurotic…than you always want.

As our littles get older, the process of letting go is about accepting our children for who they become and realizing that they are on their way to becoming independent adults.  During our meet-up, as I sat with parents of teenagers, it became clear that the acceptance process when parenting older kids is in many ways much harder than with younger kids. Letting go when our children make decisions that may not always agree with our own.  Letting go of our own expectations for our children.  Letting go of the fact that they may not always want us around, even if we want to be.  Letting go of the fact that we won’t be able to shelter them from the inevitable realities of life. Letting go of that fact that we inch closer to having them leave the nest.  Letting go of control.

In the incredible mindful parenting book, Everyday Blessings, Myla and Jon-Kabat Zinn write:

“We give our children a great if unseen gift when we wrestle with our own expectations and are able to consciously let go of those that don’t serve our children well or aren’t helpful to their growth or well-being.  This is an important aspect of mindful parenting.  When we are able to do this, the atmosphere in the family becomes lighter, there is a greater feeling of spaciousness and balance, and more room for everybody to grow.”  

It’s not always easy to let go.  We are all conditioned with our old patterns and habits. For each of us this looks different.  For some, the chaotic younger years are harder to accept.   For others, it may be a fear of setting our children free or the unknowns that we can’t control.  But if we can learn to be with the change, if we can grow with our children, if we can learn to feel a bit lighter as we parent, then our parenting journey may be less arduous.  We can face the challenges with more resiliency and the journey may be more enjoyable.