The Unspoken Agreements Mothers Make

It’s not easy being a mother. At the beginning, you are expected to love totally and fiercely. And just when you start getting good at it – resigning yourself to the fact you love this human being much more than you love yourself and you’d fight tigers or sharks if it meant saving them -- you have to start letting go.

You have to let them get on the school bus or watch them turn the corner and walk through the door on the first day of kindergarten.

When it’s time, you buy them a cell phone so you can stay in touch with them, and then accept they’ll be communicating with people you don’t even know. You teach them to drive and then you don’t always know where they are.

They’ll choose a college, probably with your blessing, and then you drop them off to let them manage on their own in a whole new world you’re not part of.

They’ll make mistakes you can’t fix for them. And even if you could, you shouldn’t because they need to learn from their mistakes.

It’s the unspoken agreement we have with our children: We will let them grow up.

There are so many times – to be a good mother – you have to restrain yourself from hovering or smothering. Those of us with children who are well into adulthood – we know all about letting go. Watching our sons or daughters choose a mate, become a parent, and turn their attention to their new family.

The truth it takes a long time to learn is that the longer you are a parent, the less influence you’ll have on that human being you created. Even a really good relationship can’t keep them from choosing a different path than you might choose for them.

When my son was a young boy, he was fascinated by SWAT Teams – which he was young enough to call “the Squat Team.” I used to say, “You can be on the Squat Team if you squat in the back row.” That was the flippant comment of a young mother confident in what her role was – keep her children safe from harm.

But it’s 20 years later, and my son went off to boot camp with the US Army five days before Mother’s Day. And let me admit: It is much, much harder than kindergarten or college.