The death grip we have on our children may very well be the death of their autonomy.
And their independence.
And their growth.
And their creativity.
And their resilience.
And, because of this, we must loosen our borderline-insanely tight hold our loving, protective hands have on theirs.
I sit here, as an admitted helicopter-mom of three insanely charismatic children, and share with you my fear that the immense knows-no-bounds love I have for them and the extremely protective instincts that fierce love has prompted, can (and will) harm and stifle my children if I don't, now and again, back the hell off.
My kids are young, seven and under, and because of this and age-appropriate safety awareness (or lack thereof) factors, I typically hold their hands regularly.
Have you ever looked down at your hand while you and your child's fingers are enjoined?
I did it recently, and I was holding so tight.
My child's hand, securely in mine, well, it just feels comfortable, natural and safe -- for them and me.
If my children are in my grasp, then no one can hurt them, right?
But, what if my uber-secure quite literal attachment to them is actually to their detriment?
As parents, our job and hope is to keep our offspring away from emotional, social, and physical harm of any kind.
And, yes, when our kids are not at the stage of development yet where they entirely understand proper safety measures for their (and others) physical being (i.e., looking both ways before crossing a street, depth perception, etc.) and mental well-being (knowing when to walk away from a bad situation or person, understanding social cues and consent), they need and accept our firm hold on them.
It acts like a seatbelt preventing them from any form of physical or emotional injury or trauma.
But just like our kids graduate from a car seat to a booster seat, to a regular seat, as they get older, they must also steadily transition from having their whole being rigorously under our clutch to having the choice of whether or not they want to be so tightly held on to and to what point.
And, at that time, we must accept and honor their wishes.
At seven years old, my oldest child -- a daughter -- has begun to hold my hand a little bit less; a choice of her own, not mine.
And though her occasionally pulling her hand away from mine sends a pang of sadness through me, I'm aware enough to know that her decision to confidently walk next to her momma instead of joined to me means that she's feeling ready to self-rule a bit more and that's something I must encourage.
We all need to remember that the goal of raising children is to help form them into respectful, confident, humble, compassionate and intelligent human beings, but without opportunities to practice these values in real-time and real-life amongst the general public, it won't happen.
Is it scary to watch our children pull away from us, every so slightly or with tremendous tenacity? Absolutely.
Is allowing them to do it anyway of immense importance to their growth as a human being? Definitely.
Whether it's that you have a hard time letting go of the grip you have on your kids because you like to be in control or it's that you don't think that they are ready to be, you have to believe and trust that inside of them is a gut -- just like inside of you -- and that for a child that is developmentally "on schedule" for their age, those internal intuitions and instincts will do their job to protect your children, if you've done your job to raise them well and according to your family's values.
Just this morning, upon getting out of the car to walk to her school's back gate, my daughter pulled her hand away from mine when I tried to hold it.
But, guess what?
By the time we got to the gate -- about a two-minute walk -- she was holding my hand, on her accord and she was doing so not because I pushed, required or guilted her to, but because she wanted to.
Yes, we can love, guide and keep our kids safe using a tense grip or we can loosen it -- at whatever rate feels satisfying to our child and us -- and watch them become self-reliant, self-sufficient and advance their ability to govern their being just like mommy taught, allowed and encouraged.
Then, not so surprisingly I hope, our kids will be grateful to have a parent who although loves them almost madly, refuses to suffocate them and stifle their evolvement which is taking place every minute of every day.
And, do you know what their appreciation for us very well may prompt?
An unexpected handhold (and those are the best).