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The Art of Letting Go in Three Steps

{I want to preface this post by saying, this is how we parent.  I don’t have all the answers for my own children and I most certainly don’t have all the answers for *your* children. This is simply a reflection of our family, not a judgment or suggestion for yours.}teen missions international, attachment parenting, raising teens

When our first child, Adalia, was born over 18 years ago, you probably would have called me a “hover-mother”. I was convinced that attachment parenting (they didn’t even call it that back then) was the way to parent. I held her constantly, she slept with us, she never had a pacifier or bottle or went to the church nursery. And babysitter? As in a teen who would come care for her a few hours? No way.

We didn’t send her to preschool when she turned three (the idea of my toddler spending the day, or a few hours, away from me was unfathomable). More children joined our family, and we did the same with them. No one headed off to kindergarten at age five.

teen missions international, attachment parenting, raising teens

I have been surprised over the last few years, that our friends aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about sending their kids with Teen Missions International as Chuck and I have been. It has become obvious that our friends think we are a bit crazy for sending our kids to far-flung destinations (Honduras, Zambia, Malawi, Guatemala) where we know we will have little (or likely no) contact at all. We got many raised eyebrows when Tilly headed to Colombia with her grandparents last fall.

As I’ve pondered it, I have realized we smoothly go from attachment/keeping our kids close/sheltered to sending them off on amazing adventures in their teen years. So how does this transformation take place? I’m not sure myself, since it has honestly come so easily, so naturally. Our kids, who we have kept much “closer” in their younger years than many of our parenting peers, have been on many more adventures that those peers’ kids in their  teen years.teen missions international, attachment parenting, raising teens

1. We keep our children close when they are little to focus on attachment (as babies) and obedience and training (as toddlers/preschoolers/young children). There is so much learning/shaping that takes place in the first few years. Chuck and I want to be the primary influence on our children at those ages. We want to shape: their eating habits, their manners, their attitudes. We want to be there when they are sad, to kiss them when they’re hurt. To encourage them when they are struggling. To celebrate their victories. To guide them, to protect them.teen missions international, attachment parenting, raising teens

2. We homeschool because we feel like they get the best education that way (with an exception being made for our special needs kids, who have learned much more in a traditional school setting). We now have a proven track record (man that feels good) with two of our homeschool “graduates” pulling straight A’s in the Community College and Adalia graduating a quarter early with both her High School diploma and general Associate of Arts degree.

3. As our children grow and mature, we embrace the amazing opportunities that have arisen for them. Japanese class, Missoula Children’s Theater, Boy Scouts, Teen Missions.  These have given our children the opportunity to spread their wings, experience more of our community and grow as individuals. By the time they are out in the community, in classes, they are confident in themselves.

Adalia, with no prior school experience, was the  youngest student to ever take doula training at Bastyr University (she had just turned 14). Judah spent ten days canoeing adventure on the Bowron Lakes circuits at age 13.  Enoch and Judah have both been on 50 mile (!) hikes with Boy Scouts. Adalia headed to Honduras at age 15 (and met her soon-to-be-husband), Judah spent last summer in Zambia, Tilly spent two weeks in Colombia this last fall (she traveled to both Bogota and a remote jungle village). Our children have come back from each of these adventures with new friends, a new confidence in themselves and a stronger faith. They have gained confidence and grown through difficult experiences and real-life learning. Not from getting a “participation ribbon” or being patted on the back.

You see, attachment parenting isn’t about keeping my children physically “attached” or by my side forever. It’s about secure attachment, raising them to know who they are, not who I or their peers want them to be. To go from being taught to truly believing. To accomplish all they were put on this earth to do.


  1. Samantha Werner

    I don’t home school my crew but I do believe that my kids are capable of leaving home and doing those things as well! I think it is more my attitude and confidence in them as individuals and my sincere belief that God is in control of them. I have had a Hannah with Samuel moment with each one of them at the hospital. My children are gifts and a responsibility for the years I get to raise them. God has plans for each of them. Who am I to stand in their way?

  2. Melpub

    Wow. Sounds great. I did have babysitters and I am in the Teen Missions Sounds Dangerous department too; for me, even Pittsburgh sounds like a long way away. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job with your kids–they all seem so happy and to have real interests and to enjoy being in their family so much.

  3. Elizabeth

    This reminds me of my own parents. We always have been very close knit. When we became teens us children had very distinct interests that my parents encouraged. My oldest brother worked as an intern at the capital of Georgia, navigating public transportation in Atlanda Georgia at 16. I travled to Taiwan by myself, also at 16, and stayed for 5 months working at a children’s home. These are just a few examples. Yes, family and friends have looked at my parents like they were a bit cooky.

  4. Julie Bruner

    Wow. This sounds very much like our family. It’s funny how the different philosophies could sound conflicting, but they work so well together. I have struggled with this myself. My oldest is 9 (I have 4 children so far) and I use a lot of attachment parenting in the earlier ages and am quite possibly the parent that everyone talks about in regards to being overly attached to my babies (I rarely spend time apart from them), but as they grow I tend to fall on the other end of the spectrum. That leaves me with more than 1 friend that has given me a side-ways glance at the things I allow my children to do. For example, ,most of my friends don’t allow their children outside without the parent. My kids spend the majority of their time outdoors! Don’t get me wrong, I check on them very often, but it’s left me (at times) feeling like maybe I’m doing something wrong. I appreciate this post! Thank you!

  5. grtlyblesd

    I’ll have to check out that missions link. I’d love to send my teens on life changing trips like those. World perspective is a great thing.

  6. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

    I just love this! I have kept my children close but I’m finding that I’m naturally going through a releasing of my oldest… bit by bit. I’m equipping her for the world and slowly letting go according to what she’s ready for.

    What a fabulous post to share at my #Blirthdayparty! Thanks for celebrating with me.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.

  7. jessicarinn

    I only now had a chance to read past entries on the blog (I have been MIA), and this post (minus the homeschooling) is SOOOOOO similar to our life choices, our values, etc. Amazingly enough, I took so much flak for holding my babies all the time, for keeping them always with me, for making sure I was there when they needed me… They said I would spoil them, etc. Then,I took so much flak for letting my kids go: alone to buy the bread in town, on long jogs or bike rides, to sleepovers, taking the train alone for a two hours trip to someone’s house, etc. etc. etc. But when they felt secure, my children have (like yours!) opened their wings and flown on their own! Not fearful, but assured, daring, comfortable. I think growing up KNOWN we’d be there allows them to attempt ‘crazy things’ because it’s ok for them to come home with ‘failure’. It’s rare that they do, but home is the place where they CAN bring their failures, for comfort, for recharging, for dissecting, etc. I think this frees them to try and be bold, go out and do things others won’t, because they are assured in their roots, their paths, their values. I just LOVED this post, Thank You!

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