Letting them lead.


Last week I spent three days in the big scary city.  I wasn’t alone, of course; I was in the company of 40 other teachers, and we were in New York to learn about the days of rapid growth, overwhelming poverty and wave upon wave of immigration.  We learned all about the Industrial Revolution, the urbanization of America and the growth of multicultural society in our country. We were studying the years from 1880-1930.  It was a fabulous trip!

One of the funny things about our teacher trip to New York, though, was the fact that I spent three days in close contact with my daughter Kate, one of my colleagues in this course.  It was  an amusing mix of reactions for me, and I think that those reactions show just how far I have come in my quest to let my children grow up!

First, let me describe a couple of my “mammabear” moments.  This group of 40 teachers had been meeting for a full week already, attending lectures, visiting museums, touring mill sites.  I had watched Kate interact with other teachers and the college professor who was leading the class. I had swelled with motherly pride when she asked thoughtful and deep questions about the books and articles we had been reading.  I had smiled when I saw her chatting with other teachers from around the state, holding her own in discussions of curriculum and lesson plans.

She was my baby girl and she was awesome!

But I had also worried when she showed up on the later side to one of the lectures.  I had come near to panicking when she arrived five minutes before our bus to New York was scheduled to depart.   I am her Mommy; I worried that she had gotten lost, overslept, misunderstood the directions……

Then we got to the big city, and I found myself looking to my little girl for guidance and advice.  I am SO not a city person!  The last time I tried to find my way around New York City was probably in 1982.  Forty years later, I was hopelessly lost and completely overwhelmed.

And that is why, when evening came and people began to make plans for dinner, I simply decided to follow my girl around the city.  I didn’t know exactly where we were, or what neighborhood we were looking for.  I only knew that I trusted Kate to get me there and back again safely and deliciously.  I followed the shape of her back and her swinging hair as we meandered through crowded streets, turning when she turned, crossing the wide streets when she crossed.  I completely gave up any sense of control, trusting in her instincts and her familiarity with her surroundings.   It was incredibly freeing, and incredibly relaxing!

Oh, and it was delicious. What a meal we found out there in Hell’s Kitchen! With Kate’s guidance, eight teachers stumbled upon an incredible Italian restaurant and stuffed ourselves to the gills with authentically wonderful food.  And I had no desire, at any point, to take control or to organize the evening.  I handed it all to her, and it was wonderful.

Next weekend, Paul is going hiking with our boys.  It will be two a night hike, and will be relatively rigorous.  Not too many years ago, I would have worried for the safety of my boys. This time I will worry for the safety of their Dad.

As we talked today about the trip, I reminded Paul that he should let the boys carry the bulk of the load.  Let them carry the tent, the cook pots, the extra water.  They are young and strong and ready to take charge.  Paul laughed and said, “No problem! I already told them that they have to be ready to carry the big stuff, including me if necessary!”

So here we are.  Both of us are still active and involved with the world. But both of us are more than happy to hand off the leadership roles to our kids, at least in certain situations.

Its good to let go.  Its kind of fun to hand off the responsibility and pressure, you know?

I still don’t know where we ate in New York, but you know what? I don’t really care, either!  I just refer to it as “That great restaurant that Katie found for us.”

6 thoughts on “Letting them lead.

  1. Love reading about your pride in your daughter and the trust you have in her. The arc of parenthood begins with us leading our children and, over time, they begin to show us so much of their worlds. This was a lovely example of just that.

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  2. I love your blog and right now it is really important to me. I am going through a transition this year and can feel the pull of my son moving on and I wonder how I will cope. I confess I’m floundering a bit but tuning into the honesty and love that you weave through the stories you relate of the challenges in life of your kids moving on has reminded me that I too want to do this with grace. Thank you inspirational lady!

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    • Oh, dear friend! How the wheels of life turn! I keep reading other people’s posts on motherhood, telling myself that I want to learn how to do it with grace!
      I may be painting a prettier picture than I should; I have managed the transition into this next phase with slips, slides, tears and insomnia. And yet, I do seem to be coming out the other side! YOU are the one who shows me how to handle adversity with courage and strength!

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      • I confess slips, slides, tears and insomnia are a big part of my world at the moment too. I’m just delighted to learn I’m not alone! I am certainly no role model but hey I keep getting up and I find ways in the day to smile. Us mums are fantastic me thinks! Keep writing – you are my role model 🙂

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