It is so hard to let go of our children. Yet one of our responsibilities as parents is to allow our children to develop confidence, competence, and, ultimately, independence—to step away from us. It is up to us to show them the way as they get older and to help them deal with their changing world on their terms. It is kind of scary and sad for us to let go; but when the time is right, it needs to be done. When our children finally head off to college, we begin to experience this for real. And while we don’t completely let go then, we begin more and more to find that they are setting the pace, creating their own opportunities and beginning to engage the world on their own terms.
I still remember the days, weeks and months trying to prepare and get used to the idea that Nick was graduating and off to college. I wanted to stop the time. I was not ready to let him go. He was my first-born, the one who made me a “mother.” I needed him here!
Well …he will soon finish his second year away in college but, if truth be told, he was ready since before I even dropped him off that first day. It took me a little bit longer. It was not until I visited him in Williamsburg that I was humble enough to accept the idea that he no longer needed me …the day when my son became my guide and the teacher. The day he showed me the way around campus, the cafeteria, the library, the soccer fields, the dorms, the laundry room! The same one who later drove me around the historical part of Williamsburg teaching me a great deal about all the history of the town that was now his home. We spent the whole weekend together sharing little bits about his days and his new life. I was so proud to see the confidence and competence that he had developed. Driving back was not easy …tears kept rolling down my cheeks, but they were not tears of sadness anymore, but of joy! My little boy was all grown up!
As parents, we must always remember that within our child is a treasure. We need to remind ourselves to have faith in that child and assist with the development of independence, remembering that we are not just raising a child we are ultimately raising an adult.
As an educator, I do tend to give some credit to the school system. After all, think of all the hours our children spend there. Granted, I’m biased and a firm believer in the Montessori program, where my own children have been taught. I remember, as if it was yesterday, when Nick first started and I watched him concentrating on different activities and repeating those activities as many times as he felt he needed and wanted to. It was during those early years where he developed what Maria Montessori called “normalization” … a love of order, a love of work, a profound spontaneous concentration, an attachment to reality, a love of silence and working alone, a generosity, and the ability to make good choices!! WOW!! Now many years later, I saw all of these integrated in my man-child.
So hold on for now with the knowledge that, soon enough, the day will come when your child will leave. Even when you don’t think they are ever going to grow up, they really do. And then we find ourselves, quietly in the recesses of our minds, wishing for the days when they were still little and needed us for everything. And we remember those moments fondly and often especially on snowy, wintery, blizzard of the century, cold days.
Carmen Arenas is a teacher and director of The Montessori School at South Riding, which she opened in September of 2004. She lives in Loudoun with Nick (when he’s home from college), Sebastian 16, and Cristian 13. All three of her boys attended a Montessori program for their primary and elementary years and she credits their leadership skills and independence to those early years!