Christmas 2019 in Birmingham
2020 opened with my seven favorite people huddled in a small living room, with sleepy eyes, counting down from ten and cheering the new year together in Birmingham, Alabama.
On December 28th, we had crammed Christmas presents and 5 people into an SUV and drove ten hours to recreate Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my daughter and son-in-law in their new home. So, Christmas came to the Walters later this year, albeit with a few tweaks to our usual traditions (but, of course, with homemade cinnamon rolls!).
We’re navigating new territory with our adult children and their busy lives, and I couldn’t be happier about it. You won’t hear grumbling from me. That’s why we packed up and moved Christmas to Birmingham. Christmas is about being together wherever we celebrate it.
Releasing Our Children
We’re all adapting to the changes, working around them, and supporting one another. I want to give my adult children more than Christmas; I want to give them freedom. That kind of freedom encourages children to grow up free of guilt. That kind of freedom comes from releasing them as they leave. Releasing them means–
- Setting them free from our expectations
- Respecting their time and commitments
- Waiting to give advice until they ask for it
- Giving them space to live independently and make mistakes
- Treating them like our equals, asking their advice and respecting their opinions
One of my friends, author PeggySue Wells, who has seven adult children describes the relationship that supports healthy interaction this way:
“In my home, they are treated as guests. In my life, they are treated as peers.”
As parents, we spent years overseeing their well-being, so stepping back from that place in their lives can be challenging, at first. But, the reward is a cherished friend.
Blessing Our Children
After we release them, we should go a step further and bless them. We blessed them when we watched them on a sports team or in a school music class performance as we clapped and hooted, cheering them on. As adults, they still need us to watch them from the sidelines, applauding their lives, cheering them on. Our young adult children will be challenged in their new independence. They still need (and secretly want) our approval and encouragement.
How Do I Release and Bless My Children?
When our children were in high school and college, we began practicing “the release.” In high school, they made small decisions about their time or money with our guidance. During their college years, they lived independently, taking charge of their lives unless they needed our help. When our firstborn graduated from college, we didn’t have a formal ceremony or pronouncement declaring, “We release you.” However, we approached some areas differently, more respectfully–like finances, holidays, decisions. In moments when we weren’t sure if we should step in, we reminded each other, “We have released her.”
When we left Birmingham on the rainy January morning to drive back to Fort Wayne, we blessed our daughter with these words:
- “We miss you, but we love seeing you, here, in your new place.”
- “We love your new place.”
- “We’re so proud of you.”
As we hugged, I choked back tears. She said, “I had such a great time with you, Mom.”
I said, “It’s never enough time, but that’s okay. We love the time we have with you.”
I wish I could tell you the process of releasing our children has been easy. I will be the first one to tell you that it is an evolving skill–one that has taken years to cultivate and practice. (I cry every time I read that last sentence.) What I can tell you: it is worth it.
It is a relationship where they will feel the courage to be vulnerable with you, because they are invited into a space free of judgement or opinions.
It is a relationship where the fruit of those long nights of parenting and days of feeling overwhelmed have found their root in children who have grown into kind, empathetic, loving and trusting adults.
This is The Rooted Life, a blog for people who want to know Jesus and live freer, more rooted lives in Him. I’d love to hear from you. You can connect with me here.
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