Loosening The Apron String

Nope, it’s not about cooking today. I must admit that I’m not much of a cook or a baker, but if you want to swing by for a simple meal, I believe I can manage that, if you dare try…(LOL!)

Today, I want to talk about parents and their children. Usually parents, mostly moms, are painstakingly protective over their growing children. I can attest to that, as I was one before. You know, modern parents these days choose to have fewer children. All they have are one, two or three, especially city folks, with both parents working. They are able to shower their children with abundance of love and attention that they sometimes fear to let go.

When I was planning to send my dear son to the Outward Bound Camp (OBC), I did mention to a few friends about it. They wondered how I could let my son participate in such a camp, three and a half hours away from home, with total strangers and for a period of ten days?! Well, feelings wise, I’m no different from other moms. Just that, when the time comes, I know I have to let go, bit by bit for his own sake. I must allow him space to grow up to be an independent young adult. He can only do that when I’m not around to “mothering” him around. I know very well that I can’t keep him under my wings forever, as I won’t be around that long. Yes, I do worry about him being out there but I consoled myself that it’ll be fine and he’ll be enjoying himself with his newfound friends. At the end of it, he would have learnt some life skills which we could all be proud of. I had been to many such camps, from young to adult life, and I ended up better off each time. I know what it’s like. The same shall apply to him. Who knows, he might want to go again next year?!

All I could do before we parted was to re-assure him and advise him to listen attentively to his instructors. I had to put on a brave front and be cool about it. Because I know, if I display any sign of anxiety, he would feel it too. That would make him more nervous. That was what I witnessed on the registration day, the scene of over-protective parents asking endless questions and anxious children tailing behind their parents! Poor kids.

As our children grow up, we must not keep them under a golden shield. Otherwise, they will depend on their parents for literally everything about them – making life decisions, expect parents to act for them, not being pro-active (always waiting to be told before doing something), etc. Should we leave permanently one day, what is to become of these children! They would be like lost lambs or like a kite with broken string! Terrifying! Oh no, I’d rather teach them to fish than to fish for them.

Of course, when offering freedom, I wouldn’t give all out. It’ll have to be bit by bit, to gauge how much my child can handle. If it is too much to handle, I’d pull some back. If he can handle more, I’d allow more. When we love someone, we must accord him/her some freedom by simply letting go, by the inch or yard. It is totally up to you. Just like one wise friend once told me – in any relationships, holding on tightly will stop it from growing and eventually breaks it apart. As in fishing or flying a kite, sometimes you let go and sometimes you apply a bit of pressure to bring it closer, then you let loose again.

Coming back to the camp : I was told by many that after the OBC, I’d expect drastic changes to my son’s behaviour. He’d be “tougher”, more disciplined and confident. Sounds good, right? Sometimes when a mother hears all that in one shot, she would be having mixed feelings like, glad but terrified. Glad because her child has grown and able to take on more life challenges; terrified because she might not be prepared for it. That’s how I felt initially, after listening to many mothers talking. Fortunately, my brain took over and did some analytical thinking, weighing the pros and cons and finally, the brain won! Yeah, it should do more good for him than harm. It’s gonna be alright….

He is old enough to learn to rely on himself and to trust his own judgement. Assuring myself that I’ve made the right decision in convincing myself and my darling husband, to let our son attend such camp at this age. Yes, I have a good feel about it from the time I completed those application forms, took him for his medical examination and the days which followed after we parted at the camp site. We’ll be seeing him again real soon….can’t wait!!!

For those parents who are still wearing a tight apron around their waists and still “mothering” their teenagers, try to loosen it a bit to avoid suffocation. After a while, you’ll get used to it and be proud of your children’s achievements in life. Been there, done that and still going from phase to phase. I’ve survived thus far and so would you!

Alice N.

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