The point of no return. There comes a time when you look at your kid and need to realize that they are no longer 12.
Let me preface this by saying that my mom is the kind of mom everyone dreams of having. Growing up, she always said the same thing to me. “I’m not raising a kid. I’m raising an adult.” Those words have sat with me ever since. My mom always valued my opinion when it came to decisions that affected my life. When she wanted me to change schools, she told me why. But then she let me “state my case” arguing why I should be allowed to stay at my school. Ultimately, the final decision was hers to make, but she knew that it affected my life and let me participate in the decision-making process. It’s the reason I have no problem with making decisions now as an adult. But man, sometimes I look at my friends, and I see that my mom didn’t raise them. That’s not to say that their parents aren’t great, but some parents have a harder time letting go of their kids. Some have a hard time realizing that the dynamic between parent and child changes from authoritarian to more of a mentorship after we move out. When I moved out and went to college, my mom was always there for me, but in being there for me, she never babied me. If I went to her for advice, that is what she would give me. She never told me what I should do, never forced her opinions on me. My mom would say to me what she thought she would do if she were in my position. But ultimately the final decision was now my own. She made sure that by the time I moved out, I could take care of myself. The last thing she wanted to do was raise her son to be like his father.
Indecisiveness, with a fear of failure, and overall anxiety of being alone are the leading factors in snowflake syndrome. We are told our whole lives that we can be anything we want to be but then stripped of any freedom to go out and take the world by storm, so we grow up to be entitled. (I probably got an eye roll from all the Gen X-ers). When you have a generation that is too afraid to fail, they end up doing nothing but cowering behind the safety net of their parents. But those same parents don’t want to see their precious little angels fail either. Failure breeds success. You don’t know what is going to work unless you try, fail, and then try again.
As a kid, I was pretty good and picking up a new skill. Nothing was outside of my range of Do’s. And if I didn’t get it right away, I would spend countless hours mastering whatever stupid skill it was I was learning that week. I get so enthralled with little tasks until I learn how to do them. It is annoying. But in the end, I usually found success in my endeavors, which kind of annoyed my mom. Not saying she hoped that I failed, but she knew that when I failed, it was a learning experience for me. I was such a sore loser as a kid, and that terrified my mom. I think the reason she was so encouraging in all my adventures was because of my potential to lose or fail. That may sound horrible, but I was such a cocky little kid that I needed to learn how to fail gracefully. And so I did.
Failure is not so bad. It’s not the best feeling, but that’s life. We tend to fear failure, but it makes us stronger. We learn from it; some even thrive from it. It isn’t the failure that defines us but the grit to keep trying. Ray Allen, NBA guard and Heat legend, says it best: “Losing is so important as a kid… I love to see when they [his kids] lose because it makes them want to fight harder, it makes them want to try, it makes them want to practice.” Allowing your kid to fail is only allowing them to grow as a person. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be good at everything. Failure is inevitable in life, so take it the “L” and keep moving; otherwise, your failure will define you, and nobody wants that. So let your kids fail, you’ll only be doing them a favor.
Letting your kids figure out who they are through trial and error is just the next step in parenthood. Us kids start our lives incredibly dependent on our parents but there comes that decisive moment where we go from dependent to independent. The best thing you can do is to be there for us when we do fail. We can be dumb and reckless, and having the guidance of a mentor who has gone through it all is the second best gift any parent can give their kids. The first being the gift of life. I went into college wanting to be a mechanical engineer but a year in I changed my mind. Instead of dictating my life and forcing me to do what she thought I should do, my mom let me follow my passion. I got a Bachelors in English, quite the opposite of engineering, but she never gave me a hard time for choosing a humanities degree. Instead, she showed her support by sending me articles of “Thing You Need To Do To Get Hired with an English Degree” or “Why More Businesses Are Hiring Grads with Humanities Degrees.” She was a light of support in the way she knew how. Just being there goes a long way.
I look back on the things my mom taught me, and I am grateful. Some parents don’t want to see their kids fail, but my mom made sure that I failed. She was always there to help pick up the pieces afterward, but she knew that I needed to learn how to deal with not reaching my goals. She taught me how to be decisive, to work through problems, to make decisions, and to have the backbone to just live life outside of her parental safety net. Some people were never given a chance to grow as a kid and had to learn those same lessons later in life. So, thanks, mom. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. And in the wise words of Shea Serrano, “Always shoot your shot. Someone’s gonna do the thing you wanna do — it might as well be you.”
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Jose-Andres Alegria is an intern at Family Bridges who does whatever the boss tells him to do, but if he can’t be found it usually means that his face is buried in a book somewhere or that he is taking a nap and you should come back later when he’s not “busy”.
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