Learning to Let Go

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As parents, we spend the majority of our time and energy creating unbreakable bonds with our children as well as a stable foundation to allow them to spread their own wings. However, this makes it difficult when you are the one left behind occupying the empty nest.
I have learned that the greatest trial as a mother is to be able to pull away from what is not in my control and fully surrender to life as it unfolds. It is not an easy task, but as I observe my children grow older and become strong and zesty young people, I convince myself that everything is as it ought to be.

When life hurts
Several weeks ago my daughter woke up in the middle of the night with a severe pain in her lower abdomen. She wasn’t sick when she went to sleep but suddenly she was hit by something that caused her tremendous discomfort. She lay on our bathroom floor, crying and moaning, while she begged her father and I to make it stop. At one time she looked at me with desperate eyes, searching for some kind of response from me about this frantic situation. I knew that if I showed her any sort of concern, it would only heighten her own. Therefore, I calmly looked at her and reassured her with my warm hand as I touched her cheek and said: ‘You will be all right, my love’. ‘No need to worry.’ To be honest, I was scared like never before, but I knew in that moment that I couldn’t let her know. I needed to be strong for her. It is during times like these when you need to acknowledge your own fear, but also let your protective parental instincts take over.
I know that many of you have probably had times when you’ve sat next to your children feeling afraid and not knowing what to do. It is scary. I become quiet in those situations, while I feel a deep sense of being present and urge to show love toward those who need my help. All my surface level worries disappear quite quickly.

Fending off the Fear
After several hours of tests and the doctor’s psychical examination of my daughter’s well-being, they found nothing. Nothing at all – no explanations or answers. Feeling frustrated, we were free to go home with a handful of painkilling pills to soothe the pain. Of course that was great news, but we had hoped for some answers about why this had happened in the first place. We had to let go of what wasn’t in our control.
The day after, I left home to go to my yoga class. My husband was at my daughter’s side and her sister too, and therefore I felt that it could be a well-deserved activity for me to join. I had only got 2 hours of sleep and was craving something that would do me good and give me some new energy. So I went, but in the middle of doing forward bend and eagle poses, I suddenly started to feel very panicked. My thoughts were all of a sudden back to the night I had just left behind, and I saw my daughters eyes looking at me desperately for help. “What if she was lying at home and needed something and my husband didn’t see it?” “What kind of mother was I that could leave a sick child to do something so careless and selfish as yoga?” “What if I didn’t see her again – never ever?” “What if I could have done something to rescue her?”
I couldn’t stop my spinning thoughts and I broke down and cried. Tears ran in steady streams down my cheeks, while I heard an inner voice telling me simultaneously that I should relax and get a grip. I should let go, because my rational side knew that everything would be fine with her, even though the emotional side of me was overcome by fear.

Letting Go Takes Time
I stayed in the class. I managed to overrule the side in myself that felt afraid. The fear that would make me never want to leave my daughter again. I have that side in me too, and there is nothing I treasure and love more than my children. I will do everything for them, but I also believe in having a life outside of my own maternal instincts, and I find it important to teach my children that sometimes I do things on my own, for myself too. I wish for them to do the same.

Letting go isn’t easy. I have experienced, that there will always be things that are out of my control. For example, when a peer speaks badly about one of my children out of jealousy. Or when I say goodbye to my oldest daughter and watch her drive away in our car for the first time. When a boy comes to our door and invites one of my daughters out to a social event. When my children cry and I can’t help. When I see them grow older and desperately try to hold on to the time that has passed us by. They will always be my little girls.
I will always feel this way, because that is what comes with having children. I love being a mother, and when my youngest daughter was laying there on the bathroom floor I realized that loosening my grip on my children’s lives is part of the process, and part of life. As a mother of teenagers, it becomes especially apparent that I now have to learn to let go. They need to practice what they have learned throughout their childhood, and they can only do that if I let them. As hard as it is, that is what parenting is all about – trusting in the ways you have already created and will continue to support them in whatever life they choose for themselves.

This article was originally posted on Psychology Today

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Iben Sandahl

Iben Sandahl comes from Denmark and is an internationally-renowned public speaker, best-selling author, psychotherapist and educator. She has more than 20 years of experienced insight into child psychology and education, which in a most natural way anchor the Danish way of practicing parenthood. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Salon, El Païs, Reader’s Digest, Greater Good Science, Elle and many more - and her main mission is to help parents raise happy and confident children. She writes for Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/experts/iben-sandahl ) and leads an European Erasmus financed project on how to implement empathy in schools and institutions all over Europe.

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