When you were small, I watched you fall a million times.

Learning how to walk, running after the dog, chasing a friend on the playground. Each and every time, I hoisted you up, dusted you off, and sent you on your way with a kiss and a smile.

As you grow, watching you fall is harder. Your failures now have an impact—on your grades, on your relationships, on your future. 

Trust me, I want to make things easier for you. I want to see you happy. I don’t want to watch you get hurt or struggle.

I want to fix your problems. I want to ease your burdens.

But my job isn’t to take away your pain; my job is to make sure you know how to get through it.

So, I let you fall. And it is the hardest thing I do in this life.

It’s not about me, though, and my discomfort. And it’s not about the rest of the world seeing me as a success because you never falter.

It’s about you, kids, learning how to overcome, learning from your mistakes, learning how to be accountable for your actions. 

It’s about learning to stand back up when life knocks you down again and again. It’s about knowing you can withstand heartbreak and loss and grief. It’s about having the courage to take risks and make mistakes—and learning what you do after.

The struggle is what will define you, what will strengthen you, what will allow you to grow.

If I fix your problems today, where will that leave you tomorrow?

So, I let you fall. And it is the hardest thing I do in this life.

But any sense of pride I feel in fixing your problems pales in comparison to when I see you fix them yourselves. Any relief I get in taking care of your needs is miniscule to the gratification when I watch you overcome personal obstacles. Any short-term satisfaction I gain from minimizing your failures means nothing when I know that you are capable of hoisting yourselves up, dusting yourselves off, and trudging forward.

So, kids, I let you fall. And it’s the hardest thing I do in this life. 

But know that no one will cheer louder when you get back up again. 

That, dear kids, is my job. And it’s the best thing I do in this life.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.