Most parents say that they hope their children will be happy when they grow up. Although my daughter’s happiness is of utmost importance to me, I believe that there is a greater aspiration for our children; one that comes at a great cost to ourselves. It is my belief that raising my child to be self-sufficient is the greatest act of unconditional love.
becoming a parent is the greatest identity change
As parents, we are supporters, advocators, cheerleaders, and advisors. No matter how old our child may be, we worry about them, and we hope we are doing right by them. Every action, every tear, every heartache, every obstacle, and every ailment that our children experience we experience tenfold.
I struggled at the beginning to grasp the enormity of the non-stop, around-the-clock demands of taking care of my daughter. I was exhausted, I had severe physical complications from labor, and despite all the books and classes I took, I was mentally unprepared for motherhood. Despite all of this, I was somehow expected to adjust to the responsibility and commitment of raising a living creature. It was a hard pill to swallow that my life would never, ever be the same now that I was a mother.
My identity changed when I became a parent. I was no longer just Randi. Now, I was someone’s mom. I learned to love in a way that was greater than I ever imagined possible. I also learned the heartbreak and worry that comes along with that kind of love. Every night I will go to sleep praying and second-guessing the choices I make about my daughter. My decisions impact her life, and the weight of that pressure is sometimes overwhelming.
The importance of raising a self-sufficient child
This is where life’s greatest dichotomy comes into play. Our children are our priority. It is our job to love them unconditionally, to guide them through life’s struggles, and to instill in them values, morals and virtues. Parenting requires selflessness, patience, and devotion. We are needed and depended on in order for our kids to learn and grow. With that said, the true measure of successful parenting is to raise our children to be self-sufficient. It is only then that they can leave the nest and live life as self-sufficient, capable adults.
It is without a doubt the most selfless and agonizing act of all. Our children are the center of our lives, but the time will come when we will no longer be the center of their lives. My daughter, who still looks for me every time she hurts herself, who calls out my name if she has a bad dream, who confides in me about her hopes and her fears, will one day have a family of her own. I know that as much as my daughter needs me now, it is necessary to teach her to be her own supporter, cheerleader, tear wiper, and friend. We must love our children enough to teach them to be independent and self-reliant. It is the greatest act of unconditional love to teach them to depend on themselves rather than us.
teaching our children to handle the challenges of life is an act of unconditional love
Sure, even when our children are grown, we will always worry about them. We will always love them unconditionally. No matter their age, we will still care and worry. They are adults, but they will always be our children. They will still love and need us, but our roles will no longer be the same.
Happiness is something we want for our children. However, I think happiness comes with believing and loving yourself. Therefore, I counter that sentiment with another goal, a far greater necessity for our children. I think the biggest accomplishment of any parent is that their child is self-sufficient and able to handle life’s challenges. Like many things in life, what is best is also what is the most difficult and painful. It is a goal that speaks to the true testament of any parent. Our act of unconditional love is letting go.
As my daughter navigates through life, I will be there alongside her. She will know that I am always there with open arms and an open heart. However, truly loving her means teaching her to love and depend on herself. Therefore, I will keep instilling in her the importance of picking herself up, dusting herself off, and putting one foot in front of the other.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Denis Waitley