As most of you know, I’m the momma to a four-legged boy named Mo. I’ve always loved dogs, but when we had two children within 19 months of each other, I found caring for a dog to stretch me beyond my maternal capacity. Consequently, we opted for a long stint without a dog. Ten years later, and after a lot of begging from our children, Mo joined our family. Despite my sweet father-in-law promising to care for him, I quickly became the caregiver again. Call me weak for not teaching my children responsibility, but there were more important hills to die on. (Surely, someone understands?)
Mo has been such a sweet dog. For the first three years of his life, we lived in a home without a fence. Rain or shine, I’d be out with Mo on a leash. Fast forward to our latest adventure and we actually selected our current apartment because of its access to a dog-approved area. Chris and I have stepped over more poop than I can count walking our sweet dog. And now, as our life seems to involve a lot of travel, many others have been hired to walk Mo on that same leash in our absence.
As one trip approached that was going to be longer than usual, Mark volunteered to take Mo for the month we’d be gone. It would save us a ton of money, but I almost said no. Could he really take care of Mo as well as I wanted? Sure enough, he did. But I was greeted by a surprise when we went to pick Mo up on our return…
To our amazement, Mo marched out of the house, so happy to see us… without a leash! As a matter of fact, Mark had hardly had him on a leash at all and Mo had stayed right by his side. (Picture Mark saying, “Mom, he’s 9 years old!”) Mo even traveled to a lake and when given the opportunity to play with other dogs, he sat squarely up against Mark’s legs. He didn’t even know what to do with his freedom.
It was the picture of my parenting flashing before my eyes. How long did I keep the figurative leash on my children? In what areas of life do I still treat my kids as if they’re 5 or 10 or 15?
If you have adult children, don’t think you’re immune. I’ve watched many 40-year olds being treated like 10-year olds by their parents. It requires a very intentional paradigm shift that some people struggle to make. In reality, it can completely shut down relationships with your adult children. So, wherever you are on the spectrum, I challenge you to evaluate the question below that applies to your stage of life…
- If you have children, what is one area where you need to either give them more leash, or take them off it all together?
- What strategy do you have in place to re-evaluate the adjustments you need to make as your children get older?
- If you have adult children, what would it look like to ask your adult son or daughter where they’d appreciate you being less parental and seeing them as adults?
Parenting is definitely a unique journey for each relationship. But keeping someone on a “leash” communicates distrust, which is hardly ever helpful and, after a certain age, only breeds resentment.