Jamie, 14, was starting to get more text messages and calls from guys. They’d ask her to go to a party or just out for a walk. Mom and Dad worried. They gave their daughter more chores to do around the house. After school, she had to clean her bedroom. On weekends her parents asked her to stay close to home in case either one or both might be called into work. Jamie knew that would never happen. She wondered why her mom and dad were being so restrictive.
Soon Jamie was feeling like Cinderella, trapped in her house, held hostage by over-protective parents. She could only use her cell phone between certain hours. Her time on the computer was restricted. Late phone calls were rare, but when they came, Jamie’s parents treated them with suspicion. Jamie felt more and more isolated. Why were her parents sheltering her so much—no, smothering her.
When her dad refused to let her go to the school dance, Jamie tearfully confronted both her parents.
“Why are you doing this? You don’t let me do anything anymore.”
“Because you’re not old enough to take care of yourself,” they shot back. “There’ll be lots of time for dances and parties and guys later—don’t be in such a hurry!”
“It’s only a dance,” Jamie said. “Everyone’s going.”
“Not everyone,” her dad said sternly. Then his tone softened. “Honey, your mother and I love you. We just don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Over time and after many conversations with other parents and relatives, Jamie’s mom and dad started to realize they had to loosen their grip on their daughter or she would eventually pull completely away. In time, they indeed relaxed their hold on her.
As a result, Jamie opened up and included her parents in her social life. She told them about the parties and the dances and the guys who flirted with her at school. The three of them developed a relationship of mutual trust and respect.
We parents try like crazy to hold on to our children—and for good reason. After all, we’ve spent a lot of years watching them learn and grow, stumble and fall, get up, wipe away the tears and keep going. They’re part of us. It’s hard to give up part of ourselves. But let them go we must. Otherwise, our kids will never get a chance to shape their own identities.
“Letting go” isn’t the same as “kicking out.” Letting go involves holding on out of love and concern while also releasing our grip out of love and concern.
Every parent can remember painful experiences. It’s only natural to want to keep those same things from happening to our teenagers. However, when we try to keep them in a cocoon, we enclose ourselves in a cocoon as well. And that’s a very small world inside.