“Smother” Nature and the Art of Letting Go

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Sometimes, writing a letter to someone that you never intend to send is the most therapeutic thing you can do. Thoughts about my teenager…. I’ve been seeing signs that it’s time for me to let you go. You withhold affection when I try to hug you. You side with Dad on everything (even when we are saying the same thing!). You seem to want more privacy and even my presence makes you tense up. It’s hard for me to be demoted from my former status of “almighty-center-of-the-Universe-Mom”. It wasn’t that long ago when just walking in the door made you squeal with delight. Now I see things are shifting for you and although I know it’s normal and healthy, it’s still hard. Your job, right now, is to separate from me. I get this intellectually. Even when I stop nagging about studying for your test or the latest online danger, I know you can feel my worried, hopeful, caring, needy energy. I remember when I was your age and how hard it was for me to give my Mom a compliment or thank her for all she did. When I was a teen, giving my Mom something that she wanted, felt like giving up a piece of my soul that I just couldn’t spare. Letting go of you feels like giving up something precious. It feels like not caring about you. It feels like being a bad mom. I don’t even know where to start but I know it’s something I need to do. If I don’t, I think the next four years will be a giant battleground. If I hold tight to my control and expectations for your life, I will increase your stress and resentment, build a wall between you, your Dad and I, and make us all miserable. If I care too much about your grades, your social life, your activities, your appearance, your online presence, and your future, I fear you will sabotage your success to earn your freedom. I need to release you so you can figure out who you are meant to be, other than my child. It’s time for me to love more and care less. I say goodbye to the tight bond we had, knowing it will never be the same again. I say goodbye to the belief that I am responsible for your success. I say goodbye to my expectation that you should be better than you currently are. I say goodbye to my belief that I know what’s best for you. I say goodbye to the idea that I can and should protect you from negative emotion. I say goodbye to the idea that worrying and managing will keep you safe. I give you permission to make stupid mistakes like every other teenager on the planet. I give you permission to be insecure and imperfect, like every other teenager on the planet. I give you permission to surprise me about the person you are becoming. I give you permission to fail, if that’s what you need to do, so that your victories can be your victories and not mine. This isn’t just your independence day, it’s also mine.  As a thank you for the unconditional love you gave to me, I will continue to appreciate and love myself the way you showed me when you were five. I free myself from the idea I need you to be happy, in order for me to be happy. I allow myself to believe I am a good Mom, no matter what shenanigans you get yourself into. I choose to calm down and relax enough to access my instinctual intelligence, that way I’ll know when to step in if you should need me. Thank you for the years of love and companionship you have given me. I love you and I release you.

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