It’s the last week of September and fall is fully here in Alaska where me and my family live. The birch leaves are electric yellow and each morning, as we drive to school, steam is lifting off the lake which is now warmer than the morning air. This last weekend we celebrated my 41st birthday and just yesterday my twins turned 10, later this week my oldest will turn 19.
There is a lot of change over here right now, so to mark it all we treated ourselves to a family adventure to one of our favorite little fishing towns.
As we drove along these beautiful mountain passes to the sea- all 5 of my kiddos tucked into my traveling rig- I could slow everything down. They were plugged into headphones, sleeping, or playing a game, and my thoughts were slow, my heart was considering it all.
I was sitting with this phrase of the week here in Purejoy- if you love them, set them free.
The first part I am sure of, I can feel it deep in my bones, my life is built around- my love for these children.
The second part has been a bit of a learning process- and maybe even something more profound, surrendering to what is.
You see, we’re celebrating the passing of time over here.
I am solidly out of my 30s- the years my children came to me.
The oldest enters the last year of his teens, he’s out of high school.
The twins turning 10 mark that we have no more single-digit aged children.
I used to try to stop time. I wanted them to stay little. I imagined having teenagers and so much worry and concern came over me. I just shut that all down inside me and returned to the rules and systems in my family that supported me. I could stop time, stay in charge, and have control.
You and I both know I was setting myself up for failure- because my kids were in fact growing, I was changing, and they were too!
The denial of it kept me using emotional manipulation with my older kids. This looked like them having a strong desire to try something new, me making an excuse/rule as to why they could not do the thing, them feeling defeated and ignoring, me avoiding my feelings that came with change until they snuck their desires and the whole thing exploded right in front of me as the tension and space grew between us.
I knew that was not how I wanted to be in a relationship with my child, but letting go was SO HARD! Like, how the heck do you even do that?
I remember a quote I read from one of my favorite philosophers when they were little- it went like this…
Receive the children in reverence,
Educate them in love,
Let them go forth in freedom
– Rudolph Steiner
Receive them in reverence, check!
Educate them in love, check check!
Let them go forth in freedom…..Ummm confusing.
Of course, I want them to be free- that’s what I wanted too, but does that mean they leave me? That I am alone? Does that mean they are alone? What does their freedom actually mean for us?
And so in my inquiry, I set to find out- what does freedom mean… for us?
Small moments of practice began to pop up all over the place as they usually do when I commit to practicing an aspect of becoming more conscious of myself as a parent.
The kids asked for something they wanted, let’s say a sleepover with a friend.
Where before I said- no, we don’t do sleepovers based on my beliefs and conclusions about what might happen while positioning myself as the permission giver.
I practiced- (taking a pause, and hearing my own fear and trepidation arise, hand on my heart- offering myself love, I turn to my child) I hear you, you’d like to plan a sleepover with your friend. Tell me more about that?…
In that moment- whether we decided yes or no to the sleepover, I witnessed some freedom emerge for my boy in him being able to voice himself into existence in the matter.
In that moment, everything about his excitement and idea of the possibilities of life came pouring out with just one simple question from me- tell me more? – and then listening as he’s saying, I see the way for myself to create the life I am wanting, and of course, offering him support – he is a child!
I noticed that I had to be willing to set my beliefs, rules, and conclusions aside in favor of this moment where he was sharing his heart with me. I offered myself some grace that we are in this moment, together, and the unfolding will bring us to what works best for us as a family as each moment gave way to the next, the freedom of right now, revealed itself.
In that moment, way back then, and still now as he approaches adulthood, there are many times where I sit in my deep love for him- I receive him in reverence, right where he is at, listening and asking of all the ways he sees his life. I share my experience in love if he asks, and then I watch him take up his own ways, often different from mine, fully accepting whatever outcome happens from his own sense of freedom.
That same freedom I was confused and afraid of, I am now in awe of!