“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” Denis Waitley
I remember watching him take his first step and cringing as he lost his balance and fell too close to the coffee table. Thinking he was going to hit his head, I rushed forward to soften his fall. He giggled and grabbed my hand to steady his stand and then ran from my grasp only to fall again. Brendan never really walked, he ran and I knew he was running from the protective and suffocating barrier of his parents.
Every step of independence Brendan took, I prayed that he walked in the right path, used the stairway banister to balance his step so he wouldn’t tumble-down the stairs and stepped carefully when playing outside so he didn’t fall on the concrete. However, the reality was that he didn’t always follow the right path, he rarely used the banister to balance his step consequently, falling down the stairs and he encountered countless scrapes on his knees and elbows because he didn’t care if he was running on the concrete or the grass. In all those instances, he learned, he learned how to navigate the paths to his liking, he learned how to climb the stairs without falling, and he learned to fall and tumble on the grass rather than the concrete to avoid the cuts and bruises from the hard surface of the concrete.
Watching our babies become toddlers, children, teenagers and grown adults is a daunting process that consistently leaves parents with feelings of self-doubt and asking ourselves “am I doing right by my child.” As Brendan finishes his last year of high school, I find myself learning to parent all over again. Every day I ask myself the same question, “when do you know everything there is to know about parenting?” I’m finding out the answer is that you don’t ever know everything there is to know about parenting.
I’ve always been a believer of free will and I wholeheartedly believe that people should have the freedom to make their own choices without judgment from their teachers, peers, family or parents. When it comes to raising children, teenagers and young adults, this theory is put to the test and at times I feel like I am with that little curly-haired boy, with eyes as wide as saucers, who ran from my grasp giggling as he fell to the ground. It is my job to stand back and let him fall and struggle to get back on his feet again, knowing full well that he will continue to run from my grasp.
I struggle not to question him as though I am interrogating him. At the same time, it’s hard to spend time with him as there are many aspects to his life; his girlfriend, his friends, school, sports, his exercise routine and work. Brendan is right where he should be as a young man and he seems to be in good space enjoying his time. As a parent, I am thrilled for him and finding myself realizing that my parenting days are numbered as I have given him every advice and guidance I can give him and it’s time to let him be who he wants to be, love who he wants to love, and choose the living he wants to choose. The day has come for me to pass the torch. The symbolic image of the Olympic Torch comes to mind as I am passing the fire of life to my son giving him the freedom to carry that fire to the next generation.
As I watch Brendan carve out his own path carrying his fire, I think of that little curly-haired boy running from my grasp. I remember thinking back in those earlier days, that by the time this little boy is a young man, I would feel like a super parent; surely by that time I would have all the answers. As I sit here writing this, I feel more baffled today than I did with that little curly-haired boy. I am not as assured or as confident as I thought I would be and at times I wonder what my next step will be. It’s not that I don’t feel needed or loved, it is the feeling of vulnerability in the action of letting go of that little curly hair boy’s hands and turning my back to start my own path, a path to finding that torch again and letting the fire ignite my passions and desires as I continue to walk in this circle of life.