I have come upon a terrible truth.
A great parent trains their children to leave them.
I’m not sure why this didn’t click with me before. I mean since birth, hello, my kids have been leaving me.
I tried – oh, I tried, to extract promises that they’d live with me forever. In fact, I can pinpoint exactly when each child promised me exactly this.
“Mom, I promise, I’ll never leave you.” This child – this cute adorable child – said that.
And this one asked me if he could live with me forever.
Clearly, their promises mean nothing to them.
But I’ve come to this realization slowly. I’m not sure why it took me so long – I’m on number 3 out of the nest, but it came to me sometime last month, after my third child left – gleefully, I might add – for football camp at Bethel University. He didn’t call me for 13 – yes, 13 long, painful, mysterious days. And when he did, he said the words I shouldn’t have dreaded to hear….”I’m just fine, Mom. Sheesh – what did you think, that I’d fall apart without you?”
Was, “Just a little” too much to hope for?
Apparently he’s FINE. They’re all FINE.
I did my job. I trained them to leave me. To be FINE without me. To not only cope, but succeed and win…without me.
I feel duped.
What did I do wrong? I’ve been pondering this…and I’ve hit on a few of my big mistakes.
Things to do if you never want your children to leave you.
1. Don’t tell them they are GOOD at anything! Seriously – if you attend all their football games and band concerts and musical and theater events, they’re liable to actually believe they are awesome at something, and attempt to spread their wings. And when they do that…they fly away.
2. Don’t let them leave home for big adventures. Like working for numerous summers at a camp, or travel the world with Teen Missions, or even sending them off on short term missions trips with the church youth group. They may start thinking this sort of behavior is normal.
3. Don’t make them earn their own money! With their own paychecks they can do things like buy their own cars. And clothing. And phones! And then, suddenly, they are saying things like, “I’m going to Duluth, Mom…I’ll call you when I get there!” Yeah, sure you will.
4. Don’t stay silent! Don’t just sit and listen when they come home upset, wait out their rant, and let them ask you for advice. ADVICE is good! Give lots of it, whether they want to listen or not. Mistakes will only make them stronger….and suddenly they’ll think that they can LEAVE YOU.
5. In fact, solve all their problems for them. Seriously. If they have to rely on you for everything then they’ll never have the confidence to leave. [Mwhahaha!]
6. Definitely don’t give them responsibility at home, like household chores and expectations, or let them build up your trust by letting out the leash and even make mistake that you let them take the consequences for.
I’m telling you – you do that, and suddenly you’ll have a kid who piles stuff in her car the day after graduation, kisses you goodbye and drives away.
And then you’ll just have a quiet, albeit clean, house. And a dog.
You’ve been warned.
PS –If you like stories about faith, family and real life, check out The Christiansen Family Collection!