We get a lot of practice “letting go” in parenting. When we have babies and toddlers, we eventually let go of that second nap, then “nap time” all together, and somewhere in there, nursing or bottles, or both. Sometimes, we’re pretty happy to put these things behind us (diapers!), and sometimes we’re sad to see them go (quiet time instead of nap time?). Whatever the emotion, we get a lot of practice letting go of various ages and stages. Somehow, when the time comes, we move through it and on to the next thing.
Yet, one thing that can be a constant struggle throughout our parenting career is letting go of expectations. The entire parent-child relationship is filled with expectations, both of what kind of parents we will be, and what kind of children we think we will raise. While everyone has their own standards and boundaries for how they choose to parent, even within this framework, we often find ourselves facing these expectations. And for me, many times, I have chosen to let go.
I have six children, whose ages range from 3 to 16. When my three oldest were younger, they all attended the same all-girls Orthodox day school. We had moved to Baltimore from North Carolina, mostly to have school options for our children. As time went on, though, they weren’t happy there. We tried both homeschooling and a different day school, but in the end, switching to public school seemed to be the best option for them. For me, letting go became about really connecting to what was best for each child. Each of my children truly seemed to be on his or her own path. I now have 4 children in public school, yet one still attends an Orthodox day school and loves it there. My youngest comes with me to the playgroup where I work.
I am really trying to let my older children navigate their own religious connections as well. The last thing I want to do is force a teenager to wear skirts and long sleeves when she insists that she doesn’t want to. I know there is a fine line, where insisting will just turn them off completely. I would rather let go and let them find their own meaningful path. This also means letting go of how others might judge where my children go to school or how I allow them to dress. Despite some hesitation at the beginning, I decided to let go of these worries, because I want my children to know I love them for who they truly are, not for something else that I expected them to be. And when I let go and look, I know that they are each amazing people with their own gifts and struggles, and that they are on their own journeys of deciding what to hold on to and when to let go.