Relinquishing the Keys and Control. An Overprotective Mom's Lessons in Letting Her Children Grow Up.
Most of us drive cars. We use them daily to get around and do life. We shuffle kids from here to there and back again, dreaming of the day they can actually drive themselves! For me, that time has come. My son has just gotten his driver’s license and now I am losing it! Not because I think he’s a poor driver, but because he is still a kid! How can a kid be expected to drive with all the crazy drivers out there? How do I know if my son isn’t going to make an impulsive mistake driving and cause an accident? My list of worries could fill this page and more, but what I have come to realize is that none of this has to do with him. It all has to do with me.
Today, I stand here before you to admit that, yes, I might be a bit of a control freak, aka an overprotective mom, but I have good reasons to be:
1. It comes with the territory of being a mom.
2. I am just protecting my kids from unsafe situations and circumstances.
3. I was raised by a control freak mom or, as I liked to call her, a worrywart.
Are there any other overprotective parents out there? I know if you are with me in this, you too do not see what the big deal is, particularly if your kids are little. I have come to realize that there is a process of letting go we go through, and, when you reach the teenage years when your child gains more autonomy, letting go becomes much more difficult for us overprotective parents.
Tell it Like It is:
I have researched a bit on this condition of overprotectiveness, control, or worry-wartness. Whatever you call it, it boils down to one thing and that is called anxiety.
Oh, I said it. This overprotective mom thing is really all about anxiety. Hey, I didn’t like to hear that either! The anxiety that something could happen to your child. The anxiety that if you make the wrong choice, your child might suffer some sort of negative impact. As a result, you become controlling. This actually works for a while because little kids need their parents to make decisions for them in the name of safety and otherwise.
However, as kids mature, they have to learn to make their own decisions. Choosing whether they want chocolate or vanilla ice cream or whether they want to wear the blue or red shirt are harmless decisions that allow children to learn to think for themselves. Letting them make these decisions is easy because usually none of the decisions are that significant. The trouble for an overprotective parent becomes more pronounced when their child comes of an age where he/she can make their own decisions on more life-impacting things like participating in bad behavior, getting poor grades, underage drinking, or learning to drive. The overprotective mom brain goes into a tizzy thinking that it might not be the wisest decision to rely on your impulsive, flighty young adult to make the right choices.
Go from Dictator to Mom-Advisor
One way to ease your transition from the dictator of all decisions is to consider advising. When the time comes where your child needs to make more of their own decisions, then you (and me) must step back to allow them to do just that. It’s hard, and it doesn’t mean you let them go cold turkey. Kids can benefit from advice garnered by life experience. This is an opportunity to go from a strong-armed attempt at controlling their every move to taking the role of a consultant where you can offer suggestions on how to make certain decisions.
Further, we cannot dismiss what is driving this need to be in control we have. That anxiety or fear of something happening to our kids. It seems easier to just keep them in a protective bubble, but alas, you know that isn’t the way. To move forward as recovering overprotective moms, we need a plan!
The Plan for Recovering Overprotective Moms
Take a deep breath. We can do this!
1. You have to acknowledge your own anxiety about this. Accept that you might feel uncomfortable, but you will have to allow your young adult to learn to make his/her own decisions.
2. You have been in control and have done a damn good job raising your child. Not only have you kept him safe, but you have also taught him how to be responsible.
3. Assess your child’s ability to make good decisions. Acknowledge what choices they have made that have been good and know the blindspots where poor decision-making was going on.
4. This phase can be the hardest part because it is time to let them fly. Depending on the child, let them make smaller, less impactful decisions at first and then work up to you stepping back and allowing them to really soar.
The bottom line here is, if you find yourself to be in the overprotective mom club, like me, it’s time to see what’s driving your behavior. Is it fear, anxiety, and worry? It can be hard to strike a balance of letting them go and keeping them safe, but sometimes you have to just let them fly. You cannot keep them in a bubble. You cannot save them from every dumb decision they might make. Remember, you were a teen once, too, and probably made some not-so-great decisions! However, you must also remember that if you have done your job well raising your child, they will likely do a good job handling the responsibility of making their own decisions.
One final thought to my overprotective, controlling, worry-wart friends: “the hardest decision a parent will ever have to make is letting a child make a decision on their own.” This is a good reminder that our job is to prepare them to have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make the decisions that will allow them to live their best independent life! What else could we ask for?
Postscript: My son, Marshall has been driving for a few months now, and he is doing an excellent job. I couldn’t be more proud of him and of me not worrying every time he drives the car!
Jackie White has been writing about life and its ups and downs for many years. With a degree in Industrial Psychology and a life-long student of personal development she is intrigued by how each individual chooses to live their life. Jackie feels strongly that truly living your best life is imperative to attaining peace and fulfillment. SoulShine was borne of her desire to inspire and teach others to live their best life. This is her mission and her dream.