Life coaching: When do you stop shielding your child when your life revolves around them

One day, even though we knew it would happen and had years to prepare, they write their last exam, run into the ocean in their school uniform, attend their final assembly then bid farewell

Where to for me as a mum, asks the writer. Picture: Freepik.com

Published Dec 15, 2023

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I was at a mums’ year-end function a few weeks ago when one of the mothers spoke about her matric daughter leaving for Stellenbosch during the school holidays and how devastated she was at the thought of her only child leaving home to live so far away. She asked the question: “Where to from here for me as a mum?”

As parents, we spend about 18 years of our lives fully invested in our children – getting up early in the morning to drop them off at school, then fetch them in the afternoon and drive them to extra activities. We sometimes work from our cars and most times, eat in our cars too.

We watch them play sport and musical instruments, sing in the choir, attend athletics days, swimming galas, award ceremonies and dance recitals. We chauffeur them to shopping malls, parties and a host of other social activities, making small talk with the other parents while we wait.

We help them with the ridiculous amounts of homework they get, listen to them read, recite speeches, help build science projects or wait while they attend extra lessons in maths and science because we know the trauma those subjects can cause not just for them but for us as parents too.

We pray with them before they go to bed, asking God to protect them from all harm and danger, then watch them as they sleep, feeling a sense of love and peace that no money can buy. Our whole lives revolve around them.

We hurt when they hurt, feel pride when they succeed, cry when they cry, and find every reason to celebrate them.

Then one day, even though we knew it would happen and had years to prepare, they write their last exam, run into the ocean in their school uniform, attend their final assembly then bid farewell. This farewell happens even if they are attending a tertiary institution close to home; for they are now adults in the big bad world and are free to do and experience things we tried to shield them from.

Abigail Nadar-Nepaul

This period in life is not only hugely transformative for students, it is for parents too. A whole new chapter in life begins; one in which the focus slowly and surreptitiously shifts to you, your life, needs, wants, and goals again. What will you do with this next chapter of your life? How will you spend your days filling the pages of this chapter in a way that not only inspires you but your offspring too?

As students so much awaits you – freedom like you have never experienced, new friendships, relationships, many firsts and many moments that will make or break your future. How are you going to use your days to carve out the future you dreamt of as a child? What memories are you going to hold close to your heart for the rest of your life?

The end of the school year brings many emotions, expectations and epiphanies if you are intuitive enough to feel them. Parents, allow your child to be who he or she is. Guard yourself from expecting them to be a version of yourself, achieving goals you once had for yourself. You had your chance. Give the child a chance too. Perhaps there is a life lesson waiting for you in the process.

Students, honour yourself. Be bold in your pursuits and requests, take up space, use your voice and soak up all the knowledge and wisdom you can like a sponge. Do not be afraid to say no to things that do not serve you. Say yes to everything that speaks to your heart and when you do, commit fully for you and you alone are responsible for your success.

Remember, when you make a choice, you choose the consequences, so choose wisely. Your success next year will largely depend on the lessons you learnt and habits you formed this year. Accept your defeats, hold your head up high and give life your all. And remember – as my late dad always told me: “Whatever happens, it’s never the end of the world. Get up, dust yourself off and try again.”

Abigail Nadar-Nepaul is an attorney, radio presenter, life coach and author.

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