How do you happily let your kids grow up? What a curious question to ask, right?
I have realized that watching your kids grow up is both beautiful and extremely difficult as a parent.
You must find the courage to let go of a part of you during that process. The part of you that for years has been taking care of them and nurturing them in every moment. Traveling full-time and spending 24/7 together doesn’t make it any easier; it is still difficult to realize that they don’t need you anymore for certain things as they did before.
So, how did I get hit by this realization?
I watched my two boys, Cosimo and Luca, 14 and 7 years old, cooking together the other night.
We had spent all day at a waterpark with friends, and while everyone was showering, I was making dinner. The water was almost boiling, and the pasta was ready to be thrown in. First, Luca walked in and said, “Mom, I’ll cook the pasta.”
Cosimo joined right after telling me to shower while they finished preparing dinner. I left them in front of the stove and was okay with it! Once I returned to the room, I saw that they were happily stirring the pasta and tasting the sauce together.
As I watched this scene, another of many moments when our kids in the past few years have shown us how this passage is smoothly happening, what surprised me the most was my ability to let go and not feel sad about not being necessary anymore for a task like making dinner. Honestly, it felt very natural.
Just a few hours earlier at the waterpark, I surprised myself for not being the first to check the map and direct everyone to where we would be sitting for the day; Emma, our 13-year-old, took care of it all. Also, in that moment, I was okay with it; again, it felt all very natural.
Suppose you are a parent like me, who likes to control everything and feels that she can take care of everything for everyone, probably risking over-stress herself by not letting go of anything. In that case, you can understand how these are huge milestones for me!
But believe me, it was different before.
How did I feel at the beginning of our travels?
Our kids were 2, 8, and 9 when we started traveling. This was a big adventure, and I felt that much planning was always required. Especially in our first year, we were still figuring things out, and I felt we needed to know precisely every next step we would take. Also, we still were not so comfortable with being around the world with our kids, so it felt like we had to keep our eyes wide open all the time.
There were all the regular things we did at home that we still did while on the road, like grocery shopping, laundry, making meals, cleaning the house and washing dishes. Many thought we were on a constant vacation, but traveling full-time isn’t a vacation!
Imagine your life at home but set up in different countries, which you often change, so you must constantly adapt to new places, food, languages, and cultures. Fascinating but also challenging.
In this lifestyle, certain emotions, like the need to control every situation, can become even more stressful because you are constantly out of your comfort zone. Being in tune with your partner is essential because otherwise, it can all crumble easily.
I remember a few times my husband argued that I always had to control everything.
It was true.
I felt like I could not let go of any responsibilities because, in my head, I thought it was my way of ensuring everything was okay during our travels so we had no bad surprises. He let me be.
They say, “Happy Wife, happy Life,” but the truth is that it wasn’t that he didn’t want to be bothered with my attitude and went with it; rather he was giving me the space to find my way to this realization for myself. Sometimes, it is hard to listen to who you love; you need to learn by just making the mistakes for yourself. It is not not only our kids that grow up, but us parents as well!
This need for control causes so much more stress to yourself because you feel that everyone is relying on you. But the truth is that you should start relying on them because they can manage more than you think!
The challenge of letting go and giving them the chance to grow up
I must admit that when my kids started wanting to do things for themselves, like maybe bake one of the cakes I usually made, a part of me took it the wrong way. I felt like they didn’t need me anymore.
Isn’t that crazy?
Our brains and fears can play crazy tricks on us and make us go to a very dark place for the silliest reasons!
While enjoying our magical time exploring the world inside of me, I struggled with these strange feelings.
I was trying to understand why I felt like this because it made no sense! A part of me was so proud of them for taking on some new responsibilities, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to let go because I was afraid they would not need me anymore.
I was so used to caring for them for so long that I couldn’t explain to myself how they didn’t need me in the same way anymore.
It is beautiful to see them grow up, but it is also difficult to realize that they don’t need you as they used to.
But is it true they don’t need you anymore, or rather, they need you differently.
If you think about it, this is just one of the growth stages. The list is long once they need you to learn how to walk, swim, go on a bike, cook, read a book together, help them with their homework, and so on. Maybe each of these steps makes you sad once you realize that they have mastered it, so they don’t need you anymore for it. However, simultaneously, you feel proud of their achievements and ready for the next challenge to face together because there are many more ahead of them.
So, we probably all faced similar emotions in these different growing stages. Sometimes though I feel that our being together all the time makes every emotion so much stronger because you can never take a break from it until you accept it and work on it to overcome it.
However, thanks to my kids, I have now realized that you are not losing your role as a guide in their lives; I like to think you are upgrading to higher levels! The challenges get bigger, and you are there to hold their hand until they need it and then watch them in awe as they master that level, too, and move on to the next. I may be speaking in a video game language now!
So, how and why did I overcome it?
It was a long process, and honestly, I think it just took one little step at a time until I finally got the clear feeling that I wasn’t just telling myself to be okay with it; I was okay with it!
I can identify the beginning of the change during COVID-19. While we were in lockdown, our flow changed. Our way of traveling evolved, and we became more of a team. Being in stuck in a small apartment in Patan, Nepal, trying to fill our days, brought me to face my dilemmas and give in to let my kids find their ways.
We had limited options of things to do. We could not set out to explore; all we could do was find things to do at home together to pass our days. Cooking was one of them. We tried new recipes and got creative with our ingredients, but most of all, we did it TOGETHER.
This was 3 years ago, but how did I realize this change just now?
I noticed that as we continued moving around the globe, subtly, our kids started taking steps towards a more independent way of doing things. They also started being passionate about things not in common with Mass and me, such as crocheting and knitting. They started to find their voice, and there was no way of controlling what they were exploring; all we could do was support them through new paths.
In the past year, I have been able to let go of so much more. I can see how those strange emotions I felt years before are not there anymore. So when the kids decide to cook a fantastic meal for us, I feel so proud of them for taking the time to research the recipes, making a grocery list, and working together to create it. They are also incredibly talented with their presentation of each dish, showing us they care about what they are doing.
Once you overcome yourself and your fears, you can truly appreciate yourself and your achievements. I needed to stop looking for ways of controlling everything to let my kids show me that the seeds we planted when they were young were blooming beautifully.
They will be their own unique individuals when they become adults, following their passions and their calling and unafraid of speaking their truth, but I like to think that they will treasure the path we took together to get there.
Growing up is not only for our kids but also for us; we grow with them. We have to face feelings we never thought we had before. We must learn to accept the challenges we find on our path of life and find the right way to overcome them together rather than simply trying to control them. We have to learn to breathe and let go.
Life is not about who does things best; although society is constantly pluggining that thought in our minds, the truth is that it is about working together to grow together. Our family is the first place where we should learn this. If we move together through life instead of against each other, happiness will surround us and help us direct us toward the right path for us.
If you have recognized yourself in any of the feelings I mentioned in reading this, I can tell you not to worry; we are human; we have feelings, and until we are not ready to accept them, we can’t work through them. However, once we do see them clearly, feel them strongly, and accept that they don’t work for us anymore, then a part of us is asking us to start finding a new way. It is time to grow up. It is time to make a change.
**Would you like to learn more about our favorite way to travel? Check out this blog post!
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