Saturday, 28 June 2014

Loosening the Reins

This weekend son #1 is camping in the wilds of the Welsh Marches to complete the Expedition component of his  Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. I'm not permitted to post a photograph of the pack he has to carry, mainly because I took it whilst he was trying out carrying it  in his pyjamas (!) but suffice to say he would have an easier time piggybacking either of his eight year old twin siblings than lugging that great thing for four days.



or maybe not... as rucksacks are quiet and generally well behaved, and camping is not something I would contemplate for one moment with his youngest siblings!

He only went this morning, but I must confess I'm missing him already. He's fantastic company, a huge help and great fun. And I'm not a little nervous that in two short years he will be off to university.

Objectively, I can see the fact that he can spread his wings confidently, well prepared for all life has to offer is actually a huge compliment, the end result that all parents hope for when they look at their tiny newborn and ponder what his or her future holds. But it comes around really fast. Too fast.

For a self-confessed control freak I've actually been relatively laid back about my children's independence. I have fretted at the twins' slow development in this area but as I wrote here on my Recipe blog there are good reasons for that. Parents of children with additional needs of any kind are acutely aware that encouraging independence is of paramount importance in a world which is full of challenges which, on the face of it suggest independence is not only unlikely, but even impossible. But as a parent you should always encourage independence, but just as important as not hanging on is not pushing them away too soon.

It is so very true that the secure child who knows he or she can rely 100% on their parents is far more likely to gain the confidence to venture into new territory. There are no prizes for having that first playdate without Mummy early, for having the first sleepover in the class or heading into town for a solo shopping expedition before any of your friends have been allowed. First isn't best, and everyone develops at their own pace. This is especially true of any child facing additional challenges, it's not about letting go - it's about support, and loosing the reins with a heavy duty, reinforced safety net. Watching H head off to our local park with his new friends has been wonderful and yet utterly terrifying, but such an important step for him. We have rules, checks and requirements to make his new found independence less scary for all concerned (especially us!), but essentially it's about working with him at his pace.

There is an often quoted song title "If you love them let them go". But parenting isn't and shouldn't be about letting your children go. It's not about pushing them out of the nest, to leave home by a certain date. It's not about insisting the crying baby "cry it out" or the toddler cope with being left at Preschool,  or planning sleepovers (because everyone else already is) if your child isn't ready. For us it's about respect and understanding, and pace. And that's their pace, not ours.
  The huge irony is that too much too soon is actually more likely to set your child back and delay independence, at any stage.
As parents we hold the reins - the guide ropes if you like, and learn with our children as they grow. We watch for signs of readiness and loosen those reins gradually - I'm not sure we ever completely let them go. But what I perhaps hadn't bargained for is the lump in your throat that accompanies the pride and joy their growing independence brings.

He'll be back in a few short days, ravenously hungry, with a pile of washing and a desperate need for a bath to bring me back to the here and now. I think I will be appreciating our time together even more with this realisation that another milestone is reached - over the past couple of weeks I've seen my boy is well on his way to becoming a man.




Linking with:-

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall





27 comments:

  1. Silver dofe that brings back memories.

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  2. Our eldest Ally has done his silver dofe, and now with the GCSE's out of the way a new adventure at sixth form awaits him after the summer - where has the time gone!! I'm sure your son will come back triumphant with stories of his adventure. Thanks for linking up and sharing with Country Kids.

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  3. Hope his trip went well. I know my son should be looking at Unis now and I am secretly hoping he will want to pick one where he can live at home.

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  4. I hope his trip goes well, I'm sure he'll have a great time. It is scary letting them go, but you are right, we do need to do it at their pace. Good luck with the washing on his return ;)
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids

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  5. How exciting for him... and how nerve wracking for you. I'm not looking forward to the day when I have to let my children go and learn to be independent. But like you say, it's a necessary stage. I hope your son has lots of fun.

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  6. oh gosh what a thought, my children growing up and leaving home,,,, long time of yet, but i can imagine it being a hard thing to do x

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  7. I hope his trip goes well, very exciting for him. I'm sure you will get lot's of cuddles when he is back x

    http://www.youbabymemummy.com

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  8. Hope his trip goes well, how exciting for him! I'm definitely not looking forward to the day that I have to let my daughter go places haha! x

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  9. Watching them grow into adults is hugely rewarding but a little sad at the same time. I hope he has a good expedition

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  10. I bet he had a fantastic time and by now he must be home safe and sound!
    You must be proud that you have raised a wonderful child who bears a great future x

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  11. hope he has a good time and learns lots!

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  12. hats off to him xx I know the feeling of them growing up ..x

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  13. Hope you had a good time camping .x

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  14. I love this post. It's so easy to compare and panic that your child isn't doing something to show their independence. I actually love hos much my older child likes the reassurance of being with us and isn't ready for a sleep over, but I do worry that he should be....but you're right, there's no need to push, just let them come to it in their own time - as they all do.

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  15. You are giving him roots to grow wings and fly. It is so hard, but I hope the boys grow into well rounded men by learning independence and security

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  16. Oh I remember the Duke of Edinburgh award! Almost did it myself! My eldest is 8 so still a while to go before I have to 'let go'.

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  17. What a fabulous opportunity, this is the kind of memory that will last his lifetime

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  18. Good luck on his Silver DOE! My mum always said that the toughest part of being a parent is watching them fly...

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  19. Hope he enjoys his Silver DoEA - I think it is important to say that you love them and will always be there for them but to let them go as well.

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  20. Good luck to him! I have the opposite problem - at three years old my eldest is far too independent - sometimes I want him to need us a bit more!

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  21. Oh my I have all this to come! I hope that he enjoyed his camping trip (adn that you did too) x

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  22. Good luck to him! It's hard watching them grow up!

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  23. Hope his trip goes well! Time goes by so quickly, from babies to children to adults x

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  24. Good luck to him! It must be hard having him go off for the first time. x

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  25. It's really difficult seeing them getting older, more independent and needing us less but it's also exciting to see what they're going to do, the choices they're going to make. We're not far off now, Aiden's 14 and still has a couple of years at school before he has to decide whether to stay on at sixth form or move on to college. I have a feeling he's going to want to go to college but I don't think it's going to be Lincoln college, I think he'll want to move to his dad's and go to college in Derbyshire. I'm getting myself ready early so it's not so hard when the time comes!

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  26. I think this quote "If you love them let them go" doesn't apply to kids :-)

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  27. I never did the duke of Edinburgh but I remember doing a survival course when I was 11 and loved it. Although my almost 4 year old is very timid around new people and it makes me feel bad that he doesn't seem to have the confidence I did as a child. Hopefully he'll grow into it :) x

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Many thanks for taking the time to comment, I really value your responses.

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