My son has a few friends he considers “brothers from another mother” and two of them are staying over at our house tonight.  I sent up a prayer of gratitude as they hung out, relaxed, as if they felt right at home.  I opened up an umbrella prayer and asked God to cover them all with it, now and as they grew into adulthood.

“Dear Lord, let them be happy.”

The house was filled with a warm/fuzzy feeling all day as I sat down to work on my computer.  I typed my simple prayer on the page and looked at it.

“Let them be happy.”

Huh.  How ‘bout that.  Is that God talking to me?

I looked at the page.

The first part of “Let them be happy” is this:

“Let them be.”

Now, honestly, there’s never been a more hovery helicopter mom than me, but I’m realizing there has to be a time when your kids are allowed to make some of their own choices.

I know it’s supposed to be my job to teach him, but as I look back, I’ve learned so many things from my son.

In the old days, when he’d come through the door, I’d say things like “Stand up straight!” or “You wore that shirt?”  His face went from a smile of “Glad to see my mom” to a frown of “I did something wrong and didn’t even realize it.”

Luckily for him – heck, luckily for me – I learned from this.

Now when he comes home, I literally clap my hands and dance around.  Sometimes I sing.  “My boy is home!  My boyyyy, is hoooome,” he acts as if he’s embarrassed by this display of affection (even if it’s just us at home), but he takes his sweet time walking in and down the hall.  He appreciates being appreciated.

I’ve also learned that there are many surefire ways to NOT get cooperation from a kid, in particular, a teen-ager.  Some masterfully ineffective methods include:

  • Criticizing him in front of his friends.
  • Standing over him, arms folded, frown fulminating.
  • Repeating a command before he’s had a chance to comply.
  • Cutting him off as he’s trying to respond.
  • Beginning a sentence, “You have no right to feel…”  Of course, I’ve got a story about this as well.

When my son was younger, I was on a rant about something he hadn’t done.  Cleaned his room, done his homework.  Doesn’t matter now.  But for some reason, I believed I had to be firm, which somehow translated to be a jerk and in my effort to discipline him, I showed him that sometimes parents don’t know any better than kids do how to behave.

He was upset with the way I was speaking to him and he said so.  Hands on hips, I said, “You have no right to feel that way,” and my son, all of seven years old, looked me in the eye and said, “Yes I do, Ma.  I have every right to feel this way. I can feel any way I want to.”

And he was right.  You feel how you feel.  My job isn’t to tell my son or anybody else how he to feel.  My job is to create an environment of lovingkindness and hopefully, he’ll feel free to be himself.

So the point I started to make – at the beginning of this post, some two miles back – is that when my son has friends over, I generally pop in to make sure everybody’s getting along and everybody gets a turn on the computer.  But if I keep stepping in and taking over, I’m stepping on toes and taking control from them.  As hard as it’s been, I’m learning to let them be.  It’s the only way I know to let the power of prayer settle in and the only way my son and his friends will learn how to be happy on their own terms.

It’s been a lot to learn, Lord.  But I’m listening.