In a post letting go and letting be (January 11, 2012) I wrote about the apparent hesitancy of my cohort group as parents to let go. I noted that I have observed a hesitancy to let our adult children go out on their own in particular to give them the freedom to find their way on their own. I compared this to the act of an adult bird helping a baby bird to learn how to fly. We seem hesitant to let our children learn how to fly on their own. We worry about them falling or making mistakes or being hurt in one way or another. We want to be helpful and in that helpfulness may actually interfere. I suggested that being patient enough to allow things to unfold naturally may be more helpful in the learning to fly process. Through my experience as a parent I have come to believe that my role is one of guidance and support but not active direction. Sure I would speak up if I thought that one of my children were making a particularly poor decision but for the most part in order to assist my children in learning to flyI must be comfortable with stepping away. I acknowledge that this is not at all easy.
The ACT of learning to fly deserves more attention. I see learning to fly, to find one’s place and purpose in life as somewhat of a paradox. Our place and purpose in life would be rather superficial if it did not involve some connection to other people but yet the very act of learning to fly is in essence a solo act. We want to find a place in the world where we have interaction with other people, where we belong to group(s), where we can develop friendships and relationships. Yet the act of learning to fly must be completed by the individual alone. The baby bird must be able to practice the action of flapping their wings and to develop the strength and power to be able to fly. This is something that they alone must do and the mother bird can only do so much to help with this process.
So what do we do as parents? Do we allow our children to practice their independence and develop the strength they need to be able to find their place?
Parents model behaviour and through that modelling provide some direction to their children. By trusting ourselves our ability to present good modelling improves. Through this we can support our children to use their instinctual sense in moving towards a place and a purpose that suits them. Our role as the parent is in the guidance and the support not in determination of the direction. In fact the more we insist the more resistance we are likely to get sooner or later in one way or another.
Back to the paradox of learning to fly as being essentially a solo act at the same time as requiring connection with others. It is the act of learning to fly that is solo not the flying. That is learning to fly does not imply a total separation from the parent but instead speaks to the ability to survive and to thrive without the total dependence on the adult parent. The baby bird must learn to fly to be able to survive without the constant attendant support of the adult bird but the learning to fly does not require departure from the nest altogether. In other words that our adult children must on their own find their way does not mean we must push them out, ignore them or not be part of their lives or they be part of ours. Instead it means stepping back enough to have them complete the act of learning to fly to success.
Are we ready to watch them learn to fly?
Irene McDermott © 2012