You will know you are a success when your children are able to leave you and build an independent life on their own. We don’t ever sever the relationship with our children, but it is our responsibility to cut the emotional umbilical cord so that they can truly grow. A parent who dominates or intimidates to be in control of his child robs him of emotional maturity.
Put simply we have two essential gifts we must share with our children – roots and wings. Let me explain. Our children grow best in the soil of security, knowing they are loved and accepted as the persons they are. Conditional loving – the “I will love you IF you do this to please me” type cripples the sinews of psychological muscle and produces an insecure child. He will spend his energy not only trying to win the approval of his parents but of others people as well. Unfortunately, he will never be able to please the parent and all the others. The child will grow up wondering about his worth and his capabilities, struggling to “find” himself.
Family “roots” of love, understanding, nurture and guidance contribute to strong self-worth and confidence in discovering and expressing independence as adolescence fades into adulthood.
“Wings” are the second gift our children need from us. Roots seem easier to give, but wings are more difficult for us. Just like baby eaglets are born to fly, our children are born to leave us. Some of the struggles of adolescence strain the process. One day these “children” are so dependent, but the next they flew their new found wings of independence. Sometimes their new freedom can strike like a sword of accusation or disapproval. If we can recognize that as a natural separation process and not feel threatened by what appears to be a loss of respect, both the parent and the child will struggle through the passage into maturity more easily.
This emotional “tug of war” can feel as though the fabric of the relationship is being torn apart, but when the new “adult friends” that once were our children thank us for their “roots” while we watch them soar on their “wings,” the rewards will be obvious.
Wherever you are in the process, there may be a parent somewhere who no longer has a child for whatever reason who would gladly trade places with you. If you are a teenager and you can flap your wings as you fly out of the nest, be grateful for the parents who let you mature in the roots of their love. The family is the foundation of our society; let’s make sure we succeed in our most important task!