When my children were little, the urge to guide them, protect them, shield them from the world was something I felt deeply in my bones. Even as I watched them struggle to learn new things, I found it hard to stand back, to not rush in to make it easier for them. I remember knowing, deep in my gut, that they needed to struggle, needed to feel the rush that comes from hard won success, needed it to grow and learn, but, nevertheless, struggling with it.
I’m their mother. Their guardian. Their protector. Their teacher.
It hurt to not fix, smooth, facilitate.
Logic almost always won out and I held myself back from intervening (unless they were in danger, because come on, mother, not monster). I even coached various family members who had a tendency to jump in with help before it was really needed, held them back gently so that the kids could claim their victories.
And then, as they grew, the challenges got bigger.
Instead of learning to scale a chair, they had to face the first day of Kindergarten.
Instead of figuring out how to tie a shoe, they had to learn to navigate the friendship seas.
Instead of puzzles featuring puppies and ponies, there were schedules, homework, relationships.
And, in parallel, the urge in me to fix, smooth, facilitate has gotten stronger and stronger.
I don’t remember the first time I tried to get on a chair, but I remember trying to understand how I fit in with the other kids at school.
I don’t remember struggling to tie my shoe, but I remember the pain of losing friends.
And every day that my kids come home, hurt because of some slight, or upset because they don’t quite understand the murky interpersonal waters of the pre-teen pool, a piece of me shrivels up a little.
I want to fix it. I want to make the pain just go away. I want to find the magic words that will make it all better.
And then tonight, as I was doing some much needed laundry, I remembered, that’s not my job.
My job is to give them the tools and resources they need to succeed, whatever that will look like for them.
My job is to encourage them to be their truest selves and gently guide when guidance is requested.
My job is to send them off with hugs and love so that they know that, however far they roam and whatever they do or face when they get there, they do so knowing that they are unconditionally loved and supported.
My job is to offer a safe place to land, a warm set of arms to hold them when the world is proving inhospitable, a soft kiss on their brow creased with angst.
And then, my job is to send them back out to keep on trying.
Because my job isn’t to fix them, to fix their path, it’s to be their support, their safety net as they become who they’re meant to be.
I am their mother. My job is to have faith in them and in everything they have learned and continue to learn from me, from their father, from the rest of our family, and to believe that they will be OK, even if their path isn’t the easy one I would have chosen for them.
And damn if it isn’t the hardest job in the world.