.....well, not entirely, slowly but surely, one step at a time.
Recent conversations with my son, Adam, have made me realise that I have actually been slowly loosening this invisible rope I have him tied to for quite some time. I've slowly been letting him take the lead on many things to do with his journey manoeuvring through his teenage years. For context, he'll be turning 17 in a couple of months.
I've managed to loosen my controls on him and allowed him to practice making his own decisions from the mundane, like his study schedule or an appropriate time to come home after an outing with friends, the haircuts he gets, his ear-piercing, his choice to wear nail polish to which college he wants to apply for to which courses he'd like to major in.
I've listened to his views, without any judgement - on religion, the conspiracy theories of the COVID vaccine, the climate change, the education system and what he would do, his plans for the future, super AI's, technology of the future, making money and so many more things that go on in his head.
Sometimes, he reflects on the mistakes he's made and the consequences those mistakes have brought about.
I find myself looking forward to these small pockets of conversations that we have. I never know when he'll open up to me or just want to talk, so I make myself available, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning, but I thoroughly love these talks we have.
I feel honoured by the fact that he still wants to talk to me and doesn't think I'm too lame or old school or wouldn't understand what he is going through.
I listen to him intently, ask questions and give my own views when I know it's safe to. I don't judge and don't try to hammer my opinions down his throat. Sometimes we agree on certain issues, and sometimes we agree to disagree, and that's totally okay. I hear the liberation in his voice when he's able to voice his opinions without someone trying to 'set him straight' or put him down.
I find the best conversations I have with Adam is when I talk less and give him space just to talk. It gives me a better insight into how he's thinking about the life he wants to have for himself. He's slowly showing an intellectual side of himself, and I feel that I'm getting a peek at this person that he is slowly growing into. I feel privileged.
I'm proud that he has views and opinions on so many issues, and I'm proud that he's comfortable enough to speak freely. And I'm also proud of myself for giving him the space he needs to take this journey of self-discovery.
He is most certainly taking the lead in certain aspects of his life, and it's clearly reflected in the depth of his conversations, his thought process and on the choices he makes at this stage in his life.
This act of allowing him to take the lead has given me the opportunity to see him slowly coming into his own. I see him having more confidence, and self-belief, he's more resilient and not afraid of making mistakes, he's independent (to a certain degree) and he's learning about his limitations and how to overcome them.
He's getting to know himself, and he's self-worth and what he himself is capable of.
I know that he has a long way to go since he's only 17, but from what I see, these developments in him are quite extraordinary.
I will repeat what many have said before - the hardest part of parenting is learning to let go. It's a journey as a parent to learn how to do this. For all of our child's lives, we have had an innate need to protect them from everything, even themselves. We don't want them to get hurt, make mistakes, or have any regrets.
It's unfortunate that we are conditioned not to make or avoid mistakes only to learn later in life that making mistakes is essential for our growth. We learn from our mistakes.
The thing is, only by allowing our teens to take the lead, practice making their own decisions (at this point within reason, of course), fall, get hurt, and make mistakes that these beautiful teenagers are allowed to grow and come into themselves. By allowing our teens to think for themselves, they learn to set limits and learn about boundaries. They'll be allowed to practice considering and dealing with consequences as a result of their choices.
Only then will they be able to get to know the person that they are, that they want to be, develop their interests, know their self-worth, make mistakes and learn from them.
They won't be able to do this if they are constantly being controlled, by what our egos think they are or should be or should do. By relaxing our control issues, our teens feel trusted, respected and supported. These feelings in itself will help them tremendously, not only in their growth but also in our relationship with them. In turn, they'll feel relaxed, seeking advice and opening up to us.
Yes, we have to come to the realisation that with every choice they make on their own, and every choice they make that is different from the one we would have made for them clearly brings us closer to the fact that they are slowly pulling away from us.
It's a natural process that we, as parents, have to come to terms with. It is hard, and at the beginning, we just don't know what to do or how to do it. Just like our teens, we are also on a journey of self-discovery.
With every decision we make, we will always have our kid's best interests at heart. Allowing our teens to take the lead is most certainly in their best interest as they navigate this phase of their lives and find their way.
Giving my son space to do so has been rewarding for both of us.