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Letting Go Revisited
Mom with a View

Letting Go Revisited

Sending off my kids to Israel is getting harder, not easier.

by

I thought it was going to be easy. After all I'm an old pro. It's my fourth year in a row of sending children to Israel, in ones, in twos and in other complicated permutations. I thought I had it down pat, the only struggle being over the size of the suitcases!

But each holiday, each summer, each new year, the process of hellos and goodbyes begins again, leaving both joy and emotional trauma in its wake.

It's not that I want to hold on to them (well maybe a little). It's not that I'm afraid (at least not more afraid than when they take the car out on the streets of LA). It's not that I don't support and applaud their choices. But each coming and going takes a little piece of a mother's heart with it. And a father's heart... And younger sibling's hearts...

Even those children you can't wait to kick out the door (the Almighty made adolescence for a reason!), perhaps those most of all, leave turmoil and tears in their wake.

Did I advise enough? (Well, there are still cell phones!) Did I send enough? ("What, you're planning a trip?") Did I pray enough? Did I cry enough? Did I laugh enough?

And what to do now? How much mothering? How much space? How much protectiveness? How much independence?

Complicated questions with imperfect, individual answers. (You might be amazed at the power of my illusion of control that I believe I have any influence at all across such vast geography.)

I've tried to err on the side of encouraging independence of thought and play (as long as the play took place in our backyard!) -- benign neglect, my teacher calls it -- so I've been blindsided by my desire to hold on. "As long as they're happy," I always said, "I don't need to be in constant contact." Hah!

I discipline myself to limit my calling and try to wait for them to call me (once again fostering that illusion of independence). I even confess to slight annoyance when I get both good night and good morning calls (no, nothing happened while you were sleeping!). I know that our children need to break away, to create their own lives, to choose the moments of contact. I don't want to interfere (I'm trying to improve the bad reputation of mother-in-laws!), I don't want to impose my will on my children (well maybe only once in a while) and couldn't anyway. I want them to make their own very real and personal choices.

Creating their own adult, autonomous lives is what we raise our children to do. Independence is success (repeat after me). Sometimes it's challenging, sometimes it's painful, sometimes we want to speak but don't, and always we pray.

If they want my advice, I'm ready to proffer it (My brisket recipe? Sure. Help with statistics? You must be kidding!) If they don't, my lips are sealed, which may be the biggest effort of all. Mostly they want my shopping! Letting go of our children -- to seminary, to post-seminary courses, to yeshiva, to the army, to marriage -- is always a challenge. As our children get older, parenting seems to be a constant process of letting go, of saying goodbye -- and of saying "welcome home" once again, with arms held open and the door swung wide.

Published: May 13, 2006


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Visitor Comments: 10

(9) Anonymous, June 11, 2006 12:00 AM

defensive?

To the lady who didn't like my comments I do believe that this forum allows me to express my opinion. You, of course do not have to agree with it. I didn't offer any advice, just an opinion. I've seen kids (not many, a few) get into plenty of trouble without some input from the home front. Ended up having to come back home in embarassment. My opinion stands and I don't have to "zip my lips" in a public forum.

ladydi, August 2, 2011 12:31 PM

DEFENSIVE?

YES!!! You are so right - your opinion counts as much as Anonymous......and you have the right to express it!!! Its also her right to disagree but she should have been a little more "classy" in her remark to you.......but then again - thats what makes the world go around!!

(8) Anonymous, May 21, 2006 12:00 AM

to the woman who cant altogether agree

your children are still small, you dont have teenagers, although you you once were one, doesnt qualify you to give advice on how to deal with them. in this case i would take your advice and zippy the lippy.

(7) Tamar, May 17, 2006 12:00 AM

"Roots and Wings"

Both roots and wings are necessary.
Probably the roots are emphasized more in the early years of growth and the wings in the later years but both produce a balanced child. I always told my three kids to look to the eagles, those moms who originally feed and care for their young in the nest only to later push them out of the nest and allow them to fall on their own, only to catch them on "eagles wings" of safety, each time allowing them to go further on their own till at last they no longer come to their young's rescue.

I see many good mothers encouraging dependent children by being too good to them, supplying their every need with only the best and protecting them from natural consequences of wrong choices which handicaps the child/young adult and discourages their growth. This is more of a handicap to them then the too much independance it seems, resulting in adult body with childlike dependence on mommy.

(6) Anonymous, May 17, 2006 12:00 AM

I can't altogether agree.

My children are small and I won't have to face this for awhile. However, having been a child myself I can tell you that if your child is doing something of which you don't approve or you think might lead to trouble you have to speak out. I don't think teenagers want to be left out there with all the choices despite how they may act. I also think it is good to establish a time to touch base. The Ribono shel Olam did the same thing with us and he calls it prayer. Why should we not have set times to stay in touch? At least to try to connect? If these children are going to Israel, I assume they are not paying for the trip themselves and I think it is healthy that they know that, on your dime, certain things are expected. When they are paying for themselves maybe you can follow the "zipped lips" philosophy.

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