Dedication: My strong, fearless daughter, Izzy.
This is the story of how I am learning to let go of control in order to empower my daughter.
At what age do we hand over control to our kids? Just this past weekend I was reminded that relinquishing our control empowers our kids. Isn’t that the goal? To raise healthy, strong, independent adults? We just have to learn to deal with our emotions when their decisions do not mirror ours.
My sixteen year old daughter is courageous, independent, fierce. She has strong opinions and views which she is able to share respectfully. She can debate with the best of them. She is open to listening to the views of others and may consider them when forming her own believes.
However, at the end of the day she is still a sixteen year old girl that wants the approval of her mother. She came home from an empowering week in D.C. where she met teens from around the country, had the opportunity to explore Washington, and participated in several hot topic debates. This past Saturday afternoon she came to me and said she wanted to cut her hair. She explained to me that she had wanted to cut it short for a while but held off because she didn’t want me to be upset or mad. As I felt tears coming to my eyes I told her it was her decision and I support her. The tears were two fold; first I love her straight, shinny, long hair. Second I had been weakening her sense of empowerment. That stung.
When my kids were young I always gave them choices. But I still controlled the choices. Do you want the red cup or the blue cup? Do you want grapes or an apple? The green shirt or the yellow shirt? As a family we would discuss our next activity or family trip. My husband would always tell me they had too many choices. While they didn’t really get a vote I listened to their opinions and thoughts. Even with me encouraging these discussions Izzy knew to stay within the established confines set by me. I wasn’t really empowering her. At five she wouldn’t say “I don’t want an apple or grapes, I’ll take a banana”. By ten she would ask for the banana when given the choices but still knew to stay within my limits. She wouldn’t ask for a cookie when given the choice of two fruits. At 16 she knows what she wants and is learning to ask for it.
Her coming to me led to a conversation explaining that she is her own person and must be true to herself. She needs to be comfortable in her skin. Not me. I apologized for making her feel that she couldn’t cut her hair. I wondered what else she feels she can’t do, shouldn’t do, or should do because of what I will think. Then we got in the car and I dropped her off at the hairdresser. When I saw her later that night she had a huge smile on her face. I like to think the smile was just as much about feeling empowered as it was about loving the haircut.
It is hard to figure out how much guidance to give our kids verses how much freedom. We must accept that they are growing into their own person and trust that we have done enough to ensure they will make the right choices.
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Where I share my journey of raising two teens.