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One of the hardest things I have learned as a mom of 14 years is that sometimes, you have to stand back. From the moment I gave birth until about a year ago, I had always felt the need to fix everything for my child, and if I couldn’t, I felt like a failure.

Nothing hurt my heart more than the thought that I wouldn’t be able to help my son out of every bad situation he found himself in. That was my job, right? Well, sort of, but not entirely. Let me explain.

From the time my son could move, I wasn’t far behind, waiting to jump in and help whenever he needed. Don’t get me wrong- I wasn’t a helicopter mom, I was just a very present mom. But, the older my son got, the more independence I had to give him. In some ways, I was able to accept this. However, even with his gained independence, I still found myself jumping in to fix his problems.

Failed a test? Let me call your teacher.
Broke the button off your jeans? Let me get you a new pair.
Help with homework? Let me jump in to solve the problem.

It wasn’t until my son was 13 years old that I realized something really important. My son had been hanging out with a new friend group and was sitting at the table talking to me and his long-time friend. According to him, that new friend group had turned on him. One of them had begun spreading awful rumors about him, while another had begun taunting him about being skinny. I could tell my son’s feelings were hurt.

“I’ll take it to the principal tomorrow. I will keep it low-key and ask him to do the same. We will make sure this stops immediately.” My son looked at me and gently said, “No, mom. I don’t want you to fix this. I will handle it. I just wanted to vent.”

I had become so accustomed to fixing every little thing that I didn’t stop to think that he was old enough to solve this problem on his own. It was hard, but I took a step back. And I started doing this more and more, playing the role of a supporter, rather than a fixer. The more problems I allowed him to fix, the better he got at taking care of things on his own. Of course, I am still there to do the heavy lifting when he needs it. But I learned a valuable lesson.

I have to think there were other ways my son had quietly asked for more independence that I overlooked because I was so hell-bent on fixing everything. In the past year, he has taken on much more responsibility and grown much. And I have to think that it started that day I stopped fixing everything for him, and took a step back.