Shop the fall collection ➔

I’ve truly enjoyed raising my kids. Sure, it’s been exhausting—the laundry, the cooking meals, the shuttling to all the activities—but mostly, it’s been a joy.

When my kids were little, it was easy to control their behavior. I put the television on the channels that I thought were best, made their meals, and purchased the clothes I wanted them to wear. I decided the playdates we would have and punished them for behavior I didn’t like. We thrived in our routine, and I may have even been a little bit smug in how smooth parenting was going for our little family.

I’d try to give them choices. “Do you want to wear the blue or pink shirt today?” Or, “Carrots or string beans tonight?” But, let’s be honest: I was the puppet master behind every scene.

Then it happened. It was slow at first—an eye roll here or a sarcastic comment there. It was when one pulled away from a hug in front of her friends or another started retreating to her room a bit more.

And little pieces of my heart began to break, bit by bit.

As my kids continue to grow older, their choices now become their own—and it is so hard when they don’t align with how you feel you have raised them. Worse, sometimes you wish you could do things differently.

Now, here I sit with three kids in the early stages of the teen years, and I wonder how we will get through it. We fight for control and gingerly pass trust back and forth like a carton of eggs. 

And when that trust is broken, when they push me away, when one of those eggs splatters on the ground, my heart breaks a little bit more.

I know kids make mistakes. I know children will disappoint. I know it is all about the process of growing up and letting go.

But knowing this still doesn’t prepare you for the surge of emotions you feel when it happens to you.

I wonder, Where did I go wrong? Or, I thought we had a better relationship than this. 

But mostly I think, Wow, I am really screwing this up.

So as I look at the pieces of my shattered heart scattered all around me, I want to pull away to protect myself, to protect my heart that has given so much to these three little souls. It’s tempting to walk away, to throw my hands up in the air and give up.

But instead, I choose to lean in, I choose to move toward the pain and the betrayals of trust and the mistakes. I choose to relinquish control of how their choices reflect on me. 

And instead of speaking my emotions, I choose words from my broken heart: “No matter what you do, dear child of mine, no matter the mistakes you make, there is nothing you can do to make me love you any less.”

Because I have to believe that with every action, with every mean-spirited word, with every effort my teens use to push me away, they want me—they need me—to be there for them, no matter what.

While I still may feel angry or disappointed or frustrated, I find other people to share those feelings with, so eventually, I can give my teens the love they need—and the consequences to know they must be accountable in this life.

And we keep talking and trying to navigate this growing up thing together—and in those moments, my heart starts to piece itself back together again, if only just a little bit.

Letting go of your kids is not just them physically moving away from you. Sometimes it’s letting go of expectations or aspirations or even dreams. It’s letting go of the control of their choices. It’s letting go of your heart while trying to hold onto your values.

And when I let go, I hope an even more beautiful life will come to fruition for my kids than what I could have ever imagined. 

I wish I could say this rough road for my kids and me is almost over, but in truth, I know it’s just the beginning. I’m trying to develop a thick skin while keeping a tender heart.

Because my teens may keep breaking my heart, but I know it’s big enough to carry us all through to the end of this journey.

You may also like:

Dear Daughter As You Move On To Middle School

To the Tired Mom in the Middle of the Night

The Kids May Be Grown, But Mom Is Still Their Home

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here! 

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

Setting Boundaries with Toxic Family Is Hard but Worth It

In: Motherhood
Family walking in water

Breaking generational chains is one of the most amazing, beautiful, and beneficial things I’ve done for my family. My children are happy and healthy and know they are loved unconditionally. I continue to heal my inner child and find my worth. I feel so much relief knowing my children won’t go through the trauma and pain my husband and I did.  But breaking those chains, establishing boundaries, going no contact with abusive family members, explaining to my children that they can’t see our relatives who they love so dearly because they were hurting us. That is hard. That is painful....

Keep Reading

As a Mom, I’m Always On

In: Motherhood
Mother and two kids at home

Yesterday, my kids made to-do lists as I do, they pretended to be Mom in their play, and they wanted to look up a bazillion and one things on my phone. These little humans are watching me. They are taking in all my actions, one by one. And it’s exhausting. From 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. (or later), I have to be “on.” I am expected to watch what I say (no cussing), be careful what I watch (no inappropriate memes or shows), stay off my phone as much as possible, and, of course, enjoy every moment and be present...

Keep Reading

Dear School Bus Driver, My Whole World Is In Your Care

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy standing on school bus stairs, color photo

To the bus driver I do not know, You don’t understand how hard it is to let go of my child’s hand in the morning and hand him over to you. You don’t know how long it took me to make this decision . . . to let him ride the bus.  Some may say it’s brave or courageous to trust another with your child’s life. I sometimes think it can be daring but also really unwise.  RELATED: Every Time I Leave My Child With Autism in the Care of Someone Else, I Worry In today’s world, we must worry...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to Girlhood Innocence

In: Motherhood
Little girl walking down road

She loved pickles and pudding and rocks that glittered. And forts that touched the ceiling. She mastered shadow puppets on night walls and Carol Burnett’s Tarzan yell in lieu of bedtime stories. In her innocent mind, the bogey man hid in the closet because he was scared of her. Thus she coaxed him out nightly with “shh . . . it’s okay, you’re alright.” She mailed letters to the mailman with sticky hearts on both sides and Cheerios in the envelope. RELATED: I Wish I Could Freeze This Moment of Innocence She regularly asked our 96-year-old neighbor Mr. Grayson if...

Keep Reading

Every Time I Blinked, They Grew—and It Was So Beautiful

In: Kids, Motherhood
Boys kissing mother black and white photo

I thought we were prepared, but we weren’t. Not even close. Not in the tiniest, least little bit. When we hugged our precious, oldest boy and left him to start college just a few hours away, we didn’t know what was coming. The waves of emotion, of loss, of pride, of accomplishment. They say not to blink because your kids will grow up. But despite how much we may not want to, it’s involuntary. We have to blink. They don’t talk about this part. No one tells you what to do when you open your eyes again. RELATED: I Blinked and...

Keep Reading

I Am An Autism Mom

In: Motherhood
Autism heart puzzle piece symbol in hands

I have always known what kind of mom I wanted to be. The mom who has the best after-school snacks. The mom who’s always ready with a warm hug and a kind word. The mom who makes jokes that get the kids to roll their eyes but laugh hysterically when they repeat them to their friends. I wanted to be a super involved mom—there for every activity, every field trip, every adventure. We all have our motherhood labels, usually defined by our children’s current hobbies or seasons of life. A kindergarten mom. A PTA mom. A scouting mom. A soccer/lacrosse/baseball/hockey...

Keep Reading

The Boss Around Here Is Tough

In: Motherhood
Tired mom with baby drinking coffee

I’ve recently changed careers. I was so used to working a regular 8-5 job over the last 13+ years. Sure, there were some late nights, plenty of obstacles, and a multitude of frustrations, but this career change has been life-changing, to say the least. We’ve all worked with difficult people before. I should be used to this, but this new boss I have has been nothing short of tyrannical.  Before I’ve even had my morning coffee I’m at his beck and call. You never know when he’s going to need something, and I have to be ready at all times....

Keep Reading

To the Homeschool Mom Trying Her Best

In: Motherhood
Homeschool family

Homeschool mothers are their own worst critics. The subject doesn’t often come up, but occasionally someone will discover I was homeschooled. My mother taught my siblings and me at home from third grade until I graduated high school. Most people don’t really care about my education before college, but homeschool mothers pepper me with questions. What curriculum did you use? What was your schedule like? Did you have issues getting into college? What did you love about it? What would you have changed? I know why they ask. They have a list of all the things they have heard about...

Keep Reading

What a Gift It Is To Watch My Babies Grow Up

In: Motherhood, Teen
Mother in pool with teens in background

A few weeks ago I ran away and I brought my family with me. It’s become my favorite thing to do for my birthday week. Nestled neatly between the end of the school year and the beginning of the longest stretch of summer, for years that week has provided my family and I with the perfect freedom to get away. There are four simple rules for this escape from our normal lives and they are always the same. Our location must: 1. Be located in a climate with palm trees. 2. Require an airplane to get there. 3. Have a...

Keep Reading

I Love it When You Smile at Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little girl in wheel chair with classmates, color photo

I gained a bit of insight today. We were walking past the checkout at the store this afternoon when we came upon a mom and her children, waiting in the checkout line.   RELATED: A Simple Invitation Means the World To a Special Needs Parent My daughter Chloe rolled by them in her wheelchair. I watched, as I often do, as the children noticed her. One girl about Chloe’s age smiled at her as we walked by. As soon as we had passed them, Chloe turned to me and said . . . “She’s the first person to smile at me!”  Let me say I...

Keep Reading