Letting Go

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With my two hands, I grip the steering wheel of my old Toyota as my 20-year-old daughter and I drive 1,000 miles together. She gets to inherit my old car while she lives away at college. She's making her way in the world and I'm trying to remain on the sidelines, trying to separate.  Trouble is, I frequently feel compelled to fix her problems.  It's taken me more than five decades to learn that as a mother, sitting on my hands is a precious skill worth cultivating.  Zipping my lip is another.

Back when I hunted down lost sweatshirts, made dentist appointments, called up unjust teachers and made connections for summer jobs, I believed I was acting out of love -- a highly involved parent trying to make sure my two children were on the pathway to success. But life's pathway has proven to be potholed, not perfect. As each has struggled, I wonder if my idea of "lending a hand" has given my kids the implied message, "I don't think you can do it, so I'd better take over."

Better late than never for me to realize I need to get out of their way. Orbiting my kids only robs them of learning life's lessons. I want my son and daughter to successfully launch.  I don't want to be paying for their rent, their clothes or their phone when they're 30. If I keep doing it, how will we get from here to there?

It's my own fears and worries that drive me to open my mouth and freely dish out advice. On this road trip, I've already belabored the topic of summer jobs because my daughter is stressed about not getting enough hours at her current one. Refraining from "inflicting my help" feels nearly impossible. For me, keeping silent is hardest of all.

Yet powerful motherly love keeps me trying.


At the next gas station, my daughter and I switch places. Over in the passenger seat, I place my hands on my lap. Smiling, my daughter grabs the wheel with both hands to drive the rest of the way.

With a Perspective, I'm D'Anne McFarlane.

D'Anne McFarlane lives in Los Altos and publishing her first book.