After 15 years, you might think I’d have this motherhood thing figured out. But lately it feels like my job is changing. I suppose that’s normal for the mom of a teenager.
Emily was our firstborn, and life sure changed when she came along. Suddenly, my top priority was to protect this little person – and that was no small task. Potential hazards lurked behind every corner. We covered electrical outlets, installed baby gates, and secured drawer stoppers. With each passing year we faced new challenges in keeping her safe.
And now she’s 15. Call me sentimental, but in my mind, I can still picture her as a little girl in her pink princess pajamas and a big, toothless grin. I can hardly believe she’ll be driving soon! It seems like yesterday she learned to ride a bike. I remember that day well.
I sat on the front steps, squinting from the afternoon sun. Curt jogged behind Emily while his hand clutched the bike. Emily pumped the pedals, wobbling and weaving across the open yard.
As Emily struggled to balance, I realized that Curt must also find a balance. Not only did he need to provide Emily with the support she needed, but he also needed to decide the right moment to let go.
I didn’t like the idea of letting go. Letting go meant a possible fall. But I also knew it was necessary. Sure, she needed support, but she needed freedom as well. Without both, she’d never learn to ride.
Then without warning, that moment came. No more running alongside. No more holding the handlebars. Just hoping, believing and letting go. We watched her wobble a bit and straighten her steering; then at last she rode all by herself. I jumped to my feet and applauded like a dedicated cheerleader.
Of course, the inevitable happened later that night. Over-confident, she turned too sharp and crashed.
It’s been years since the training wheels came off Emily’s bike. Today she is blossoming into a young lady right before my eyes. But can I be totally honest here? Sometimes I still struggle with letting go. After all, I still want to protect her. I don’t want her to fall.
Like any other fifteen-year-old, Emily wants freedom and independence. She’s wants to make her own decisions. And those are good things. But living that out can be tough.
Like a wobbly child on a bike, she needs both support and freedom. I can run alongside and cheer her on, but little-by-little I need to let go.
No matter how old she gets, I don’t think my desire to protect her will ever end. It just becomes an ever-shifting balance between my need to protect and her desire for freedom. Some days we struggle to maintain equilibrium.
Funny, I always thought it was the parent’s job to teach their children. But I think children teach us, too. While she continues to learn from her successes and failures, I’ll keep learning the delicate balance between holding on and letting go.
How about you? Do you struggle to find the right balance with your teen? How do you maintain equilibrium?