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Holding On or Letting Go: What’s a Mother to Do?

Posted by NancyWilliams on April 25, 2011

“Am I doing too much?”

“Am I helping enough?”

Questions like these fill our minds and our conversations as we watch our children learn how to manage their lives. How do we know when to say “yes” and when to say “no” when it comes to helping them? We want to support them and yet we know we have to let them learn how to manage their own lives. It’s not a problem when things are going smoothly, but what about when they hit the rough patches of life?

I remember when my sons learned how to ride a bicycle. After some practice with training wheels and my hand firmly planted on the back, the day came when it was time to take the extra wheels off. I held the back of the bicycle as the boys struggled to find their balance. “Don’t worry, son. I’m holding on.” Once I let them get comfortable, I knew

I would need to let go so they could take off. So I did. And they did.

And at some point, they fell. Of course, I rushed over and helped them up, wanting to assure them, “I’m so sorry I let you fall. I’ll hold on.” I knew though, that if they were going to learn to ride I had to let go at some point, even if it meant they would fall down again. I knew eventually they’d learn. And they did. I remember watching them ride up and down the street with the biggest smiles. “Look at me, Mommy. I can do it all by myself.”

Now they are grown men, learning how to manage the challenges of adult life on their own. Balancing their finances. Building careers. Managing relationships. Maintaining their vehicles and their homes. Coping with their emotions.

Sometimes they come to my husband and me with a request to hold their bicycle while they get their bearings. For example, when my younger son moved to the town where we lived, he asked, “Can I stay with you while I find a job and a place to live?” We had just moved to the new community ourselves and were pleased that he decided to move to the same area. We knew he could use some assistance, so we set some expectations and a timeframe (boundaries) so he could get his bearings. And it worked out well. Soon things were in place for us to let go, and he began riding on his own. Has he fallen a few times?

Sure, but he is learning how to pick himself up and get back on to ride again. And we are on the sidelines, praying and cheering him on.

There have been other times when our children have problems and our hearts are heavy. My motherly instinct wants to jump in, rescue, and hold the bike so they won’t fall. Yet, I know they need to work things out for themselves. So my role in those times is to be on the sidelines with my love, encouragement, advice if they ask, and my prayers. I know that while I’m not holding their bicycle and controlling the outcome, God is right there along side them, guiding, protecting, and healing any wounds that might occur.

When we help our children, it’s a great feeling to hear, “Thanks, Mom.” And when we let go and give them the space and support to learn on their own, it’s wonderful to here their excitement, “Look, Mom. I did it myself.”

My prayer is that God will guard our hearts and guide our steps to show us how to respond in a way that is best for us and for our children.


• When have you held the bicycle for your adult children to give them a helping hand during a learning curve or a difficult time?

• When have you stayed on the sideline and given your children the space and time to tackle the challenges of life on their own?

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