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Having run an elementary and middle school, I’ve spent years observing the process of growing up. I’ve also supported parents in their journeys each step of the way, which left me feeling like I had a keen sense of how the parent-child relationship worked.

As my own kids are now surpassing the age of my perceived expertise, I find myself seeking guidance from the parents who survived the teenage years unscathed (if there’s such a thing). You know the saying, “the cobbler’s kids have no shoes…”

Spring brought the first of it, the undeniable shift from child to teen. It arrived unexpectedly, furiously, with no clear warning, despite the age and all of the obvious signs. My innocent child became more confident and more confrontational. More hungry, more distant, more independent, and more defiant.

Gone were the nighttime snuggles and secrets. Gone were the homework sessions completed (obediently) with care. Gone was my control.

Spring was turbulent. I hadn’t expected the changes (really!?), so I responded with fear – a sure-fire way to screw everything up.

I was hanging on to any control I had, which was not much. My relationship with my teen turned from one of my greatest joys to one that ached of loss. We were fighting, frustrated, and neither of us was backing down.

One day, lightning-quick, I jolted back to reality. I was not the parent I wanted to be, nor one that I recognized. I realized that if I wanted to maintain the trust I’d worked so hard to build, I needed to grow along with my child.

I had a list of needs that were all my own, and not his.

  • I need to let go of control
  • I need to trust the child I raised
  • I need to accept that he is changing
  • I need to let go of control
  • I need to remember he’ll come back to me
  • I need to stop nagging
  • I need to let go of control
  • I need to let him make mistakes
  • I need to support him when he falls
  • I need to let go of control
  • I need friends to talk to
  • I need to appreciate who he’s becoming
  • I need to let go of control
  • I need to be calm
  • I need to walk away when I need a break
  • I need to let go of control

In that sharp, transformative instant, I let go.

He is thirteen and we have many years to go, but in small, comforting ways, this turmoil has rewarded us.

  • When I am calm, he has guidance
  • When I walk away, he takes a pause
  • When I support him, he has something to stand on
  • When I stop nagging, he hears me
  • When I trust him, he rises to the occasion
  • When I accept him, he shares his world with me
  • When I let go of control, we’re in it together

It may not be exactly how I planned, imagined, or engineered it, but it’s better than the alternative.

This article inspired my post, which I’ve wanted to write for a while. I wish I’d read the article before the (invasion of the) body snatchers came to take my child. It’s insightful, straightforward, and all-too-accurate. I imagine it wouldn’t have had the same impact then as it does now, but I’m ever so glad that I read it.

Take heed: your child will change. It’s going to be quick, furious, and undeniable, and it’s going to be harder than you ever imagined.

Letting go is what kids are designed to do. If we do it right, we’re supposed to let go, too.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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