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The difficult task of letting go


QUESTION: I have found it very hard to turn loose of my kids and face the empty nest. I know I need to release them, but it is so difficult. Can you help me?

DR. DOBSON: The late humorist Erma Bombeck described this difficult process in terms that were helpful to me. She said the task of raising kids is like trying to fly a kite on a day when the wind doesn’t blow. Mom and Dad run down the road pulling the cute little device at the end of a string. It bounces along the ground and shows no inclination of getting off the ground.

Eventually and with much effort, they manage to lift it 15 feet in the air, but great danger suddenly looms. The kite dives toward electrical lines and twirls near trees. It is a scary moment. Will they ever get it safely on its way? Then, unexpectedly, a gust of wind catches the kite and it sails upward. Mom and Dad feed out line as rapidly as they can.

The kite begins pulling the string, making it difficult to hold on. Inevitably, they reach the end of their line. What should they do now? The kite is demanding more freedom. It wants to go higher. Dad stands on his tiptoes and raises his hand to accommodate the tug. It is now grasped tenuously between his index finger and thumb, held upward toward the sky. Then the moment of release comes. The string slips through his fingers, and the kite soars majestically into God’s beautiful sky.

Mom and Dad stand gazing at their precious “baby” who is now gleaming in the sun, a mere pinpoint of color on the horizon. They are proud of what they’ve done – but sad to realize that their job is finished. It was a labor of love. But where did the years go?

That is where you are today – standing on tiptoes and stretching toward the sky with the end of the string clutched between your fingers. It’s time to let go. And when you do, you’ll find that a new relationship will be born. Your parenting job is almost over. In its place will come a friendship that will have its own rewards.

Remember: The kite is going to break free, one way or the other. It’s best that you release it when the time is right!


QUESTION: If beauty is the most important attribute in determining personal worth in this culture, what is in second place?

DR. DOBSON: It is intelligence as expressed in scholastic aptitude. When the birth of a first-born child is imminent, his parents pray that he will be normal ... that he is “average.” But from that moment on, average will not be good enough.

Their child must excel. He must succeed. He must triumph. He must be the first of his age to walk or talk or ride a tricycle. He must earn a stunning report card and amaze his teachers with his wit and wisdom. He must do well in Little League, and later he must be a track star or first-chair trombone or the valedictorian. His sister must be a cheerleader or the senior class president or the soloist or the best pupil in her advanced-placement class.

Throughout the formative years of childhood, parents give their kids the same message day after day: “We’re counting on you to do something fantastic. Now don’t disappoint us!” The hopes, dreams and ambitions of an entire family sometimes rest on the shoulders of an immature child. And in this atmosphere of fierce competition, the parent who produces an intellectually gifted child is clearly holding the winning sweepstakes ticket.

Unfortunately, exceptional children are just that – exceptions. Seldom does a 5-year-old memorize the King James Version of the Bible, or play chess blindfolded, or compose symphonies in the Mozart manner. To the contrary, the vast majority of our children are not dazzlingly brilliant, extremely witty, highly coordinated, tremendously talented or universally popular! They are just plain kids with oversized needs to be loved and accepted as they are. Thus, the stage is set for unrealistic pressure on the younger generation and considerable disappointment for their parents.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO. 80903; or

Questions and answers are excerpted from “The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide,” published by Tyndale House. Copyright 2005 Jamese Dobson Inc.