My eldest goes off to college next week and I have a lot of emotions running through my body. This is what life coaches call AFGO (another f*cking growth opportunity). Meaning, as I move through these next couple of weeks, I will have many opportunities to practice what I coach: managing my mind and thoughts. In doing so, I will have opportunities to grow and evolve. Yippee, right?!
Truthfully, no. I’m not feeling that yippee right now but I know from experience that, as a being, I benefit with each challenge, or AFGO, that life brings my way. We grow stronger when we go through difficult times in our lives period. This is best understood when thinking of our physical body. We don’t get stronger sitting on the couch watching TV. In fact, we don’t even get stronger in the gym doing the same lifts with the same weights. We get stronger when we push our physical body: increasing the distance we run, the weights we lift, or speed of our morning walk. All of these actions are challenging and all can lead to muscle discomfort the next day. Does this mean something’s gone wrong? Not at all. Take that physical experience and examine your emotional state. We don’t get mentally stronger sitting on the couch watching TV either. If we are used to pushing down our emotions with food, shopping, TV, Facebook, or wine, we need to do something different to grow. We get stronger when we push our emotional self to the next level also: taking the time to journal our thoughts instead of eating, meditating instead of watching TV, talking to a coach instead of complaining to the same friends. All of these actions are also uncomfortable, similar to the sore muscles, but does that mean something’s gone wrong? Hell no. And that’s what I’m digging into as my son goes off to start the next part of his marvelous life. As a parent, I’m inclined to hold tight to him, to try to control and organize everything about first year away, so as to “protect” him as his very being is pushing to move forward and grow. Theres a piece of me as a parent that wants to carry him around in a soft little nest and make sure his experience here on earth is sunny and full of rainbows. I’d like him to wear the clothes that are comfortable for him, have friends who are supportive of him, take classes that are interesting but not too hard, and…..oh come on Susie, dream on, right?!
If you’re a parent, I know you can relate no matter the age of your child. I had similar thoughts when I first sent him to kindergarten, preschool, or heck, even when I left him for the first time with a babysitter. My rational mind could think any or all of the following:
This is exactly what he should be doing.
I prepared him for this (kindergarten or college!)
This is a wonderful opportunity for him.
But we don’t only have that rational mind, do we! My brain was quick to jump in with any or all of these following thoughts too:
What if he needs something?
What if someone’s mean to him?
What if he’s uncomfortable?
Oooh, re-read that last one: “What if he’s uncomfortable?” Yeah, Susie, what if? Isn’t that where he’ll experience growth? Where he will get an opportunity to evolve into his next best version of himself?
For the same reasons that I had to kiss him and walk away at the preschool door, I’ll need to do that this next week. Why? Because he’s grown into the young man he is today because he hasn’t been in a soft mommy-nest his whole life. His growth and strength has come from the bumps and falls along the way: not making certain sports’ teams, staying up late to finish projects he didn’t pre-plan for, watching his parents marriage fall apart, speaking up for himself with peers, navigating life between two houses, traveling to unfamiliar countries, getting uncomfortable and then learning that he survives it all. He might not always enjoy it all but, in experiencing it and surviving, he comes out stronger and more resilient. Instead of running and hiding, he gets to develop into the next best version of himself. No, it hasn’t always been a smooth road for my Ryan, yet all of it happened to make him the amazing 18-year old that he is today.
And so, moms and dads out there….courage to us this month. Courage to step back and let go of control. We will want to clear the path of hurdles, rocks, and thorns. We will need courage to remember that we have prepared our child so that, no matter what the path brings, they can handle it. Sure, they will stumble and they will even fall down. But they will also get up, skip, and even soar. It is time. Time to step back. Stand down, Mama. They’ve got this. You’ve done well.
Schedule time in to your calendars for you and your care. You will have emotions. We are emotional beings. If you push, push, push through you will probably find that, come October, you have big shopping bills or an extra 5 lbs on your body. Why? Because you shopped, ate or drank instead of sitting and feeling. There is no emotion we can not feel. As human beings we were designed to feel and experience it all. I encourage you (and me) to dig into being that human BEing versus a human DOing. To be in the experience we’re having, trusting that life happens for us, not to us, and that every bump along the road enhances our journey here. We’re ready for that AFGO. Grab my hand and let’s get go.