The Art of Letting Go

Posted May 24, 2023 by Theresa Miller

Categories: Featured, Sister Post, Theresa

Parenting in many ways is both a science and an art.

On one hand, we parents adopt disciplinary strategies, and only when we test those with the variables that come with each child, do we know how well they will work.

On the other hand, parenting is a lot like learning to dance. We draw a child in, let them go, and draw them in again; until it is no longer our dance to lead.

When it comes to parenting, there is a time for teaching and a time for letting go. I’ll never forget learning this lesson when my cautious first-born son had finally grown into his first bicycle, yet hadn’t quite mastered his launch.

On that warm summer day, I piled all four kids into our SUV with bikes, a scooter, and a stroller jammed into the back. We then meandered to a park to help my son master his bicycle launch.

While two kids ran off to play and one laid in a stroller, my son propped up his bike with one foot, ready to go. I held the back of his seat to keep him steady, while he positioned both feet on the petals then launched. Once he launched, he soared. He loved it—until he fell. I helped him back up, steadied the bike once again, and repeated the process. After a few rounds, I decided it was time to teach him how to launch his bike on his own.

“Just put one foot on the petal and keep one on the ground…no, no don’t sit on the seat yet! Okay—”

“Stop teaching me, mom, and just help me go!!”

I stood there stunned.

Do I reprimand my normally compliant son for yelling at me, or do I heed his desperate words?

In an instant, it struck me.

Those words represented so much more than the momentary launching of his bike. In a flash, they represented a young adult who was ready to soar and just needed a steady place to launch. I could hear him repeating these very words years from that day when it was time to leave home, and I knew he wouldn’t need me to teach him how to go. The teaching would be over. My job would only be to help him go.

I steadied his seat again, then let him go.

He clung his hands to the handlebars, narrowed his focus and circled that park over and over again. Nothing would infringe on the focus he gained with each rotation.

Stop teaching me, mom, and just help me go.

I never forgot that moment when this essential lesson hit me from the mouth of a six-year-old boy learning to ride his bike: “Stop teaching me, mom, and just help me go.”

There will be milestones where our children are just ready to go. They won’t need a step by step tutorial when that time comes. Their home will be that steady place to launch. We’ll watch them go, we’ll watch them fall, and we’ll watch them get back up and go again. With time, they’ll come home less and less for that steady place to launch. But for certain, they will soar!

There is a science to this vast responsibility of parenting. As parents, we want to control the best outcome possible for our children. With three children trailing behind my oldest, my job is far from over. To the contrary, the teachable moments are now. The art, however, is in knowing when to let go.

(Originally published in MOPS Ezine.)