Thursday, June 19, 2014

Letting Go

Has anyone ever said to you, "Kids grow up way too fast"?  I have heard these words for years...I've heard them as an educator and as a dad.

My philosophy with my kids has always been, Be the engine to get them started...and then get out of the way.  When my kids were younger the activities would include kicking a soccer ball, sliding down slides, attempting the monkey bars and playing the game "lava" around the edge of a park.  I have wonderful memories of our visits to the park.  As time has passed the activities have changed.  Now we ice skate, golf, build things, swim, read and explore.  Whether it is past or present I have tried to make activities fun and entertaining.  

As a classroom teacher I took a similar approach.  I wanted to make learning an enjoyable experience.  I remember a time when I was able to step back and watch with sheer pride.  Our class was working on a project, and each student had the choice of how they could show what they learned.  Years ago this would have been my version of Project Based Learning. I had a few students that wanted to use music or song to show off their learning.  One young lady that struggled to show what she knew in a typical setting really blossomed with anything that involved music.  Her name was Macy.  Macy approached me and asked if she could memorize and sing the Star Spangled Banner.  During the final quarter of the school year we had discussed the song and I thought that this would be fitting for Macy.  I told her to learn the basics, who wrote it, when it was completed, and then I had one more caveat for Macy...I told her I would be videotaping. Macy smiled and got nervous, she knew she would be in front of her peers, but also being taped...I thought that might be a deal breaker.  I was pleasantly surprised when Macy excitedly took the challenge!  The day finally arrived and Macy dressed up in red, white and blue. Then the moment of truth...Macy absolutely hit a home run!  All year long she struggled to fit in and find her niche.  I was so proud to watch her excel and nail the Star Spangled Banner!  As I reflected I was happy that I gave Macy the freedom to be herself...but I was most proud she stepped up to the challenge and did it!

I remembered that moment this week after I took my youngest son to his first ever junior golf event.  Troy is nine years old and for the last four or five years he has joined me on the links during the summers.  Last year I could see that Troy had a little drive to improve, so this year I decided to get him started in the Spring and then ask him if he wanted to join the Junior League. He excitedly accepted.  The Saturday before his first event I took him to the course and we walked nine holes.  I got to listen to his grumbling about being tired and carrying his bag, but I was also able to encourage and give him some tips.  I felt fairly confident that he was going to be just fine. Finally, on the morning of his big day I drove him to Sharp Park.  My plan was to watch him on the first tee, encourage him and then leave.  At this point some might wonder, why would I leave? The fact is, I could have walked all nine holes, I could have watched, caddied or even been the score keeper.  I told my wife that I thought it was important to let Troy grow up. Letting Go is a tough thing for adults.  My approach is to try my hardest to put my kids in a spot to succeed and then, let them take it from there.  That's what I did.  I let go and allowed Troy to figure it out.  I could go on and tell you all about that first tee shot, but I won't...I'll let you see it for yourself. (Yes, Troy is the one that looks like he should be on the basketball court...not the links.)

As I drove away from the course I had mixed feelings.  I was proud that he was growing up...he wasn't the little baby anymore.  As a dad I wanted to stay and watch, I wanted to see all the good and bad and just take it in.  Finally, my feeling was one of peace.  I was letting him grow up and figure things out.  (I'll admit, I was pretty proud that he ripped one up the right side about 150 yards!)

The two stories are very different...but they do have parallels.  Both Macy and Troy had the ability to show their stuff.  They needed opportunity, trust and for adults to get out of the way. These two moments will always be with me; they teach me two important things: 

1)  Every kid can succeed...we as adults need to figure out how to bring it out and let them show their stuff!

2)  It's okay to let go.  Our kids are growing up fast and our responsibility as adults is to help put them in a spot to succeed and then get out of the way.

Letting Go is very difficult. I encourage adults to be the engine that gets them started, and then get out of the way.

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

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Validation...great short film, you won't regret taking the time to watch. (15 min)


  1. Another awesome post. Your blogs always hit just the right tones. Thanks Ben for constantly sharing!

  2. I may need a golf lesson from Troy! Way to go Troy!

  3. Looks like he's inherited the famous Gilpin block-cut...

    1. Well said...he definitely doesn't hit a hook.

  4. Children grow fast and therefore receive the same education should be the best. Parents and teachers have a great influence on the formation of children.

  5. Ben I am sure that this was not an easy post to write or an easy thing to do, but I am certain you know it was the right thing to do. I am sure that day will come soon when I will do the same with my 8 year old and I will think back to this piece and know that letting go at times is the right thing to do. Thanks again for sharing and thanks always for being there when I need you.

  6. Ben, thanks for always being so genuine and transparent in your writing.

    Amazing how this "letting go" concept surfaces in our lives, as educators and as parents. It takes a special person to stop and appreciate it, which of course, you've done here.

    Letting go is never easy, and it always seems tougher on us adults. But I also believe, we know we've done our job if, after WE'VE let go, THEY come back, in little ways. Whether it's a former student coming back to share good news, or one of our children reminding us, no matter how old they seem, they still need our encouragement and reassurance. Keeping that door open for us, is where we gain fulfillment and our own reassurances that we are "doing right" by our children.

    Really, really powerful stuff, Ben. Thanks, as always, for sharing your wisdom.

    ~ Dennis