Those of you that have been in workshops that I facilitate are likely aware of my unique family. I was honored to be a surrogate mother for my best friends and I had twins (Tanner and Kennedy) who will be fourteen soon (how the heck they got that old overnight is beyond me). Tanner and KJ also have an older sister named Zoe. Our family is a little different, but it works for me (mostly because I won’t be paying for their college in a few years) and it has been a pretty positive experience for all of us. One of Tanner’s favorite things is to ask his friends if they know his mom’s name. When they answer “Amy” he will just shake his head and say, “nope.” He loves to stump them by telling them that technically Nikki is his mom. That kid cracks me up.
One of the natural progressions of parenthood is increasing the amount of freedom that your kids need/want. I can vividly remember being a teen and becoming frustrated with my own mother, or with my grandparents when they would fret over things that I was doing. The first time I was going to the movies with my friend who had just gotten her driver’s license my grandma hugged me so tight and so long that I started to squirm to get out of her embrace. My own mother never did this to me personally, but so many of my friends’ parents would tell them, “call me when you get there.” I endured many, many lectures about safety – especially if I had just done something not so safe (but almost always extremely fun). My mom couldn’t swim so she was especially fearful of anything involving water – boating, swimming, fishing, etc. I once got a very serious lecture about using an old car hood as a sled that was being towed behind another vehicle. As a kid I honestly couldn’t understand why my mom was being such a kill joy. As an adult, I’m thankful I survived my (sometimes reckless) youth.
I’ve been involved in this progression with Tanner and KJ (and their older sister, Zoe) for quite a few years now. I remember watching Tanner walk down the sidewalk when he was a pre-schooler as he was heading to the neighbor’s house to play with one of his friends. I’m not sure what I though might happen over the span of less than one block, but I was scared to death. KJ has a very active social calendar and the first time she had a sleep-over, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get a wink of sleep. Whenever she is at the mall with her friends I’m on edge until she is back home safe and sound. Zoe is a senior in high school and is considering her college options. In less than a year that girl will basically be on her own. In my own mind she is still the beautiful little girl who got a white lab coat and a toy stethoscope for her fifth birthday. It would have alleviated many of our owns fears and much of our apprehension if we’d kept her locked up in her bedroom, but that certainly would not have prepared her for what this big world has in store for her.
I like to talk in my classes about Maslow and his hierarchy of needs and I almost always talk to people about social safety in addition to physical, emotional and psychological safety. Kids developing that sense of autonomy is a huge component to them developing their sense of social safety. We adults, and probably more specifically those of you that are more than just third string parents (I coined that phrase for myself since the twins have three parental units), play an important role in helping children develop this sense of safety. And it starts with letting go just a little. Telling our children that we trust them are just words (oh my gosh, I can tied in something from Chapter 2 here since words make up just 7% of the message) but when we demonstrate that, it sends a much more powerful message. Letting our children make their own choices and then live with the consequences (positive or negative) helps them learn. It is heartbreaking (trust me, I know) when our kids make poor choices that lead to them being hurt, especially emotionally hurt. When their friendships are strained I have to really resist the urge to rush in to “fix” things or to tell the kids what they should do. Even when they ask, I try to turn it around and see what they think, “well, what do you think you should do about…”.
So parents, you’re not alone. We’re all scared to death about giving our kids more and more responsibilities and freedoms, but it’s a very important part of their growth. We are raising our next generation and I’m sure I can speak for all when I say I’d really prefer it if they were self sufficient, confident and capable adults.
Nikki Wince – Mandt Faculty Supervisor