The Modern Momma: It's Hard Learning to Let Go

Our job as parents is to help our kids become the best versions of themselves. But it’s not easy to hand over the reins.

Kristy Eckert
Kristy Eckert

As we reviewed my fifth-grader’s assignments for Week 7,375 of hybrid school, I questioned the cryptic social studies note.

“What’s the Native American project?” I asked Coop.

“Ooh—I’m doing a diorama!” he exclaimed, pulling up a web page. “I’ll show you examples.”

Me, to him: “Ooh! Sounds like fun!”

Me, in my head: 20 more hours of my already-crazy week gone. Ugggh.

“We had choices,” Coop continued, while pointing out intricate diorama examples online. “Like, we could have made a totem pole out of a paper towel roll. But I’m definitely doing the diorama.”

Wait. A totem pole out of a paper towel roll is an option?

“I mean, a totem pole out of a paper towel roll could be really cool,” I tried.

He didn’t even hear me. Instead, he started talking about his diorama. There would be water and spear fishing and clay and …

I flashed back to Week 2 of hybrid learning. I had returned to the family room from a client meeting, and Coop, who had packed up his schoolwork and was watching YouTube, proclaimed he had finished his video biography assignment. He proudly showed me the result. It was cute. But I looked at the video checklist, and he had included only six of the 12 required items.

“This is good, but you have a lot more work to do until it’s done,” I said. “Look at the list—you only included half of what you need.”

“But the teacher said to spend 30 minutes on it,” Coop explained. “And I already spent 40.”

It quickly escalated into me asking whether this was how he was approaching HIS WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE, with an attitude that minimal effort is good enough.

Now, months later, here he was, choosing the overachieving option I basically bullied him into believing is the only way to live in this house if he ever wanted to eat again. And I was annoyed.

For one teeny tiny moment in time that I will never speak of again after typing these words, I may have understood what my husband means when he says I can be exhausting.

I laughed. I smiled. And then together, Coop and I made a list of supplies he would need for his diorama. He shared that he was teaming on the project with a friend whose momma I adore (and who promptly ordered miniature people and animals—bonus points for good partner choices!). Then off we went on Project Diorama, which turned out to be a blast.

Sure, we know in theory that our job as parents is really just to help our kids become the best versions of their unique selves. To shine their brightest. To use that one-of-a-kind existence to change the world, right? And I don’t disagree.

It’s just that in practice, I’m sure that I know what the best version of Coop looks like—and precisely how to get there, too. I mean, I am the mom. I also apparently think he should know exactly when to overachieve (video biography) and when to settle for the easiest possible option because Mom has an insanely busy work week (RIP, paper towel totem pole idea that never stood a chance).

I guess I should have read a parenting book somewhere along the way. But relinquishing control has never really been my style. Sorry, kid. I’m doing the best I can.

Coop and his buddy spent two and a half hours meticulously bringing their vision of Northwest Native Americans to life, mostly shooing me and my occasional suggestions out of the room. There was fabric and craft sticks and Lincoln Logs and a toothpick spear piercing a whale and Christmas lights (fishing often happened at night) and a totem pole that only a mother could love.

It wasn’t an artistic revelation. And it wasn’t exactly how I would have done it.

Instead, it was perfect.

Here’s to letting go. Even if we’ve got their skin in our nails as we do.

Kristy Eckert is a Powell mom and founder of Kristy Eckert Communications.

This story is from the Spring 2021 issue of Columbus Parent.