Learning to let go and lead

Beautiful picture by Mark Rohl

It feels daunting sometimes, this parenting thing. Looking at the big picture of raising these kids, helping them become who they are, I feel woefully under qualified. I feel like I am looking out over this vast space at place out on the horizon where we will eventually end up. A place where the boys will be grown, where we will have done what ever it is we did and let them go into their own orbit. I hope that the trajectory that we set them on is the right one but once we let go it is no longer our flight path but theirs. But that letting go isn’t in some indeterminate future. It’s yesterday when I dropped Primo off at Sunday school and no longer was the only one telling him stories. It is tomorrow when Segundo looks both ways and crosses the street to play at the neighbors house. They are small releases in the same orbit. More like spaces walks while still tethered to the ship, but still letting go.

How do you know when to let go and when to pull them closer? Yesterday Primo was riding his balance bike down a steep hill. He was flying almost. Feet out, wind in his face as we watched nervously. We were letting go, letting him experience the danger and the adventure. But he crashed. Too fast, too squirlly. He slid on the pavement leaving road rash on both legs and we ran down to hold him close. Feeling like we were to blame for this, we let go too much. But kids fall and get back up. They gain the experience not just in the safety and praise, but in the adventure and the danger. Still how do you know when to let go and when to pull them closer?

I know I am a good dad. I don’t always know what I am doing, or have the right answers. I lose my patience and sometimes break my promises, but I let my boys know that I love them daily. They see how I love their mother and learn how to treat a woman. When I make a mistake I acknowledge it and have even had to put myself in time out once or twice. I understand that what I am teaching them has very little to do with what I am telling them and more to do with what I am showing them. When I start to feel overwhelmed by the journey of parenthood and the idea of how my kids will turn out I try to remember that very thing. I am modeling that future person today and the lessons I teach them need to first be learned by me.

you can find more photos from mark at his website Indie Image

  6 comments for “Learning to let go and lead

  1. 07/26/2010 at 7:31 am

    This is the eternal question of parenting, something I figured out when my parents admitted how hard it is for them even now not to want to step in and take over for my sisters and me when they see us going through tough times.

    When I left home I remember it being hard for my mom because I was the oldest and the first to leave. My mom took it personally but I told her it was because she and dad had raised us, through their example, to be responsible, and now it was time to go out into the big bad world on my own.

    You’re a great dad and no doubt your kids will be prepared for the big bad world one day.

  2. Debbie
    07/26/2010 at 10:32 am

    So true, so beautifully expressed
    and I am so very proud


  3. 07/26/2010 at 1:42 pm

    Love this post James. I related to it specifically on two examples, letting them go to a neighbor and play (we haven’t really done this and it still would feel weird) and hte balance bike (have had that same sort of experience with Lukas)

    Sounds like you are doing an excellent job.
    Seattledad (Luke, I am Your Father)´s last blog post ..Let Freedom Ring

  4. 07/26/2010 at 2:59 pm

    great post, and very thoughtfully-put perspective on a tough subject! i’ve raised poppy from the beginning with a decidedly “attachment” style of mothering – breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and paying close attention to even her most subtle queues in an attempt to meet her needs before she becomes upset. it worked wonderfully for us in her infancy, but now that she is 15 months old i’ve had to adjust my style somewhat – let go a little so that she can explore and learn. take a step back so she can socialize & accommodate other people/friends/family into her little life, by her own choosing. it is definitely a fine line trying to decide how fiercely to protect them without stepping over the boundary of hindering! it is lovely watching her grow, become smarter every day, and making her own choices about things. but at the same time? it’s pretty terrifying, don’t you think? (;

    emily bilbrey´s last blog post ..pooksville photo craft tutortial- upcycled sweater hats!

  5. 07/26/2010 at 3:09 pm

    Awesome post. Honest and realistic. We went through this when We dropped Him off for His first day of kindergarden. She sobbed, I stared at the closed door that stood between us. It’s hard to do and, like with the balance, sometimes you feel like you shouldn’t have. But you do because you have to. It’s really strange and you did an amazing job of capturing that strange uneasiness in this post. Very glad I read this.
    writtendad´s last blog post ..Sand that Stays

  6. 07/26/2010 at 3:30 pm

    This is something I think about often and have been trying to figure out how to write a post on it (you beat me to the punch). In fleeting moments I can see how I am beginning to let go a little but it’s not easy. In my circle, I have been famous for looking after my son like a hawk so it’s especially difficult for me to let go.

    On the bright side, that place on the horizon you refer to, it may not be such a far off place. I’ve heard the horizon is only 3 miles away. Just some trivia for you.
    squirtsdad´s last blog post ..Bare Feet

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