Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song titled, "Cinderella." It chronicles the life of his daughter, from the time she's a five-year-old playing dress-up as a princess, to the day his princess becomes a queen by marrying her king. The theme of the song is that at each stage of his "baby's" life, he's going to take time out of his busy schedule to pay attention to her, get to know her, encourage her and embrace her individuality because "soon she'll be gone."
If you find yourself suddenly toward the end of the song where your baby is old enough to "soon be gone," but yet still feel as if she (or he even) is not ready to face the world without you, here are five ways you can ease your way into your child's adulthood whether you're ready for it or not:
1. Pay attention
It's common in today's society to be so busy making a living that making a life - particularly where your family is concerned — has become just another task on your "to-do" list. While there may not seem like enough hours in the day to do everything you HAVE to do, one of the easiest ways to begin to pay attention to your daughter is to carve out at least 15 minutes one night before you go bed to simply reflect on the life of your baby girl. Take time to without judgment- remember all of her unspoken accomplishments, special moments, dreams, heartbreaks, fears and even the spoken ones... everything HER.
You can even step this up a level by writing down all of your memories and discoveries so they'll be at the ready when you graduate to the next phase of your own growth in the life of your daughter.
2. Get to know him/her
Now that you've gotten uncomfortable — first of all by turning off the TV 15 minutes early to spend some time alone mentally with your young'un - the next step is to actually TALK to him (or her).
But wait! Before you go all in with the failed expectations and the "you didn't" this's and "you should have" that's, here's a quick lesson in Communication 101:
Using "I" statements will keep defenses down, eyes from rolling up and the purpose of the mission open and on track. Start by saying something like, "Ya know, child of mine, I spent some time thinking about you the other day, and I realize I don't really know you. I know I may have had some unspoken expectations you didn't meet, but then again, how could you if you didn't know about them? So how about we start fresh today?
Hi. I'm (insert parental role here). Nice to meet you. Tell me a little bit about yourself: what makes your smile? What breaks your heart? If time and money was no object what would you like to be doing? Tell me about your job. Tell me what/who inspires you. I want to know everything!"
Then get ready to be amazed!
3. Encourage her
This step piggy-backs the previous one because all you have to do here is LISTEN. While she's getting uncomfortable by sharing her fears, dreams, and life with you for perhaps the first time, all you need to do is HEAR HER WORDS - not what you want to hear, but what she's actually saying.
Listen to the meaning behind the words and support her by giving her space to begin to show her growth, her strengths, her weaknesses, and her vulnerability with you. From there, you'll be able to encourage, guide and support her through the next step.
4. Embrace his individuality
At this point, you're no doubt seeing your son (or daughter) in a whole new light. You're learning things about him you never knew, but you also realize he's grown and possibly even mature enough to - gasp! - make his own decisions. And guess what? If he makes wrong ones, now he trusts and respects you enough to talk to you about them and ask for help because you've given him the space to prove himself responsible, and in turn, spent the time developing your relationship and communication with him. Let's be honest here: this is what you've wanted his whole life anyway, right?
And all this leads to:
5. Enjoy your success
"So I'll dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms... because all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she'll be gone."
It's inevitable. Your baby is going to leave home and sooner or later start a family of her own. Because you've taken the time, however, to get to know your daughter, encourage and embrace who she is as opposed to what she is, you can rest assured the lessons she's learned from you will be the model she uses to rear her own children, which will reshape lives for generations to come.
The little bit of time you sacrifice today pouring into the purposes, passions, and identities of your children is guaranteed to inspire a legacy of love, authenticity and integrity.
Way to go (insert parental role here)!!!