In the May 2012 AARP Bulletin actress Kathleen Turner wrote an article entitled, “The Art of Parenting.” In it she asks, “When do you start letting go? When, and how, do you stop parenting?” Both are good questions with no easy answers.
I’m not sure if mothers ever completely let go of their children. Even when they are “grown and gone,” we tend to wonder what they are doing, if they’re okay, if they’re eating properly—you know, the things mothers worry about. Worrying isn’t parenting.
Parenting is simply defined as “the raising of a child by its parents” (The Merriam Webster Dictionary). That definition doesn’t really describe what a parent does. What is raising?
Raising implies upward growth. We raise corn or beans from seeds planted in the earth. The farmer tends the plants with the expectation they will produce corn and beans. Raising children is much like caring for a crop. We nurture our children over the course of many years, feeding and clothing them, making sure they receive proper nourishment—physically, spiritually and emotionally—anticipating they will mature into responsible citizens.
Parenting is getting up in the middle of the night to hold a sick child or feed a baby a bottle. Raising is sitting beside your child struggling with homework as you continue to encourage and help find answers to the questions, modeling sticking with a problem to find a solution. Parenting finds you on a sidewalk running alongside a shiny new bicycle, teaching your child to ride without training wheels. Raising is cheering your little one when they fall off and want to quit, instilling an “I-can-do-this” mentality.
Raising is attending church or synagogue together, providing a spiritual foundation that will be an anchor in life’s tough storms. It is modeling kindness, respect and helping one’s neighbors. It’s a father going to work every day, teaching a balanced worth ethic to his children. Raising a family is full-time work with few vacation or sick days.
My children are now on their own, making decisions most of the time without my input; that is how it should be. I trust their father and I raised them well, and we are blessed to watch them grow their families, repeating the cycle of life and love.
If parenting is about the tasks of taking a child from baby bed to college graduation, that’s probably when it ends, on graduation day; when the child can stand on his or her own two feet and make their way in the world.
Letting go? Never.
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