I want to talk to you today about something I feel very passionate about. Because it’s been key to my being able to sleep at night with three teenage daughters.
And to not worrying when my daughters sadly move far away from me.
This all started one day, a few years ago, when I was chatting with a wonderful mom whom I hadn’t seen in a few years.
Though there were many ways in which our parenting was similar, a core difference was highlighted in our conversation and her interactions with her daughter. Our then 15- and 16-year-old daughters were heading to the local yogurt shop, and the other mom insisted that her daughter take a sweater in case she got cold, in spite her daughter’s assurance that she’d be okay.
Though this mom is also a very loving, attached and attuned parent, she is a lot more directive and protective with her daughter than I’ve been with my three.
At some point in our conversation, whilst praising my parenting, work and the results I’ve had with my daughters, she said something that inspired this article.
She said that she didn’t allow her daughter to be as free as I allow mine, because she wasn’t willing to experience the potential consequences of that.
Her statement really stayed with me.
I found myself pondering it a lot afterwards.
And felt compelled to express my perspective.
What I feel very strongly about and could have replied to this mom is this:
“I’m not willing to experience the consequences of not trusting my daughters. Of making their decisions for them. Of having them rely on me to guide their decisions and monitor what they do.”
Giving them freedom to make their own decisions has allowed them to remain connected to their inner guidance, instead of shifting their focus outward to what others tell them.
The only person who will always be with them, whom they can always count on, is themselves.
Therefore, I’ve seen it as my job as a parent to nurture and strengthen that relationship above any other.
Trusting my daughters to make their own decisions while they still lived with me allowed them to develop their experience while I still had influence on them, and could still give them my opinion and feedback.
By the time they move away from me at 18, they have been making all their decisions by themselves for a long time, and therefore are well-equipped to make them.
I’ve made a point of telling my daughters that the only person they can fully trust is themselves.
Above even myself and their dad.
That there are times (this mostly happened when they were little) when as parents we have to make decisions that impact them which don’t feel right to them. And that we’re not necessarily making the best decision.
That we are fallible.
That it doesn’t mean that because we’re the ones making the decision we’re right and they’re wrong.
I wanted to make sure not to skew their perception of what felt true and right to them by telling them they were wrong.
I just presented my perspective and opinion, taking responsibility for it and not making it “the truth.”
Why do I believe that the only person my daughters can fully trust is themselves?
Because no one else ever has as much information about them and their specific situation as they do.
No one else has access to their instincts and inner guidance, which are the most reliable resources we have (when they’re not covered up with crap from all our conditioning).
Our inner guidance is our connection to our drive toward wholeness, toward what we know is right and good, when we’re not in some form of protective mode.
It’s our connection to presence, spirit, our higher self, God, or however we experience the source of life.
It’s our connection to massive amounts of information, of which we can only intellectually access a small fraction.
I’ve encouraged my daughters to trust their own opinions and guidance in terms of whom to trust, whose advice to listen to, which expert or more experienced person to turn to when they need help or additional information.
I’ve encouraged them to be discerning when reading or listening to others and to never blindly trust what someone says.
One thing that happened naturally for me (and I feel I was really blessed with) was always looking at the long-term perspective when it came to my children.
Not allowing them to go out on a specific day might keep them safe in that specific instance, but will not do anything in terms of keeping them safe for the rest of their lives.
What will keep them safe is being grounded in inner honesty, critical thinking and having access to their inner guidance.
Now I’d like to share a story I told an acquaintance many years ago, before children were even on her mind, and which she told me recently is what she still remembers me by.
Once, when she was three, my daughter was standing on the kitchen counter getting something in a cabinet.
When she was done, she asked me if she could jump off.
My reply to her was, “I don’t know, can you?”
How could I possibly know what her body is able to do? I’m not in it!
She turned the focus to herself and realized that she didn’t feel comfortable doing so.
And asked me if I’d take her down.
If I had told her she couldn’t, she would have learned to trust my opinion instead of her own feeling of rightness.
She wouldn’t have become as attuned to her body and her specific abilities.
Trusting my daughters to make their own decisions, from toddlerhood on, has made my life as a parent so much easier.
And it’s ensured that my daughters knew how to keep themselves safe, rarely got hurt and are now well-equipped to handle life on their own.
I feel incredibly blessed to have had the foresight to do this with them; we’ve all reaped, then and now, endless benefits from it.”
Author: Eliane Sainte-Marie
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Author’s Own