There are times when we just can’t let go of something—and this can be both problematic and an advantage in the context of parenting. Problematic because, well, power struggles aren’t the most effective method for teaching our children anything worth learning. And not being able to let go of something can be an advantage because—and the caveat is important—if we can hang on with grace and gentleness, our relentlessness can help our children learn some of the most important lessons in life (unconditional love, perseverance, faith, hard work, and dedication come to mind).
If we are finding ourselves in a power struggle where we sense that we are quickly losing our ability to hang on with grace and gentleness, then it helps us to let go if we can learn to recognize when it’s our childhood that’s bothering us and not so much our child’s childishness. Being able to distinguish between our hang-ups and our child’s hang-ups—and then being able to let go of ours while truly helping our children with theirs—is the higher path that we are called to walk on.
If we hope to make strides in actually breaking the cycle of dysfunction so that we don’t pass down the mistakes of one generation to another, then we will need to work on this! Recognizing when it’s our childhood that tripping us up doesn’t mean that we have to figure it all out and analyze it and label it and enter into discourse at-length about it. We really don’t have time for all of that—and it’s not completely beneficial to us right now in this moment as we are facing a crossroads. We have to learn to recognize it in the moment (and even anticipate it to some degree) and then to quickly let it go—accepting that we may never get the feel-good closure we want on anything from the past but also acknowledging that it’s far more important that we give our children the feel-good moments and memories of parental support than for us to work out all the ins and outs of the growing up years we came out of. We have to just let it all go and leave it all on the side of the road as we move forward. We can’t take it all with us. It’s too heavy, too cumbersome, and it requires too much of us now than we really have to give it—and we have to make room for our present life and our present responsibilities. Our children matter way more to us than neatly tying up all the loose ends of our own childhood. Let us focus on this day, our children, and pledge to make it about them and not about us.