Step In, Step Out, Step In, Step Out

If you are a mother, a father, a surrogate parent, an uncle, an aunt, a grandma, a grandpa or a mentor - you will get the title of this piece.  Being involved in anyone's life is a balancing act of step in, step out, step in, step out.

I remember my middle child, my daughter, as a mid-teen telling me that my oldest son got privileges she didn't.  Not really true. He was using the car to drive 1-2 kilometers in the suburbs to play games with his friends. She wanted to drive to DT Vancouver by herself for work and walk to her car in the wee hours alone.  We both made a list of our expectations to guide our talk and as we shared them, both of us learned a lot. 

From those who mentored me I learned - 

  • I am a hand full when I get worried or upset or am in full ADD mind racing, the squirrels are out mode or in the depths of self doubt. I apologize. I hopefully will continue learning and growing. 
  • Most of the time I don't need advice per se. What I need is a push to trust my instincts, to risk failure by taking a leap of faith and to just try.  Whatever the outcome I will learn from it. 
  • Growing up is a long process. I am in my 60's now and still feel like I have miles to go. 
Photo by Somruthai Keawjan on Unsplash

How do we support
others when it feels like such a roller coaster. I know at times I just want to throw in the towel, or start giving unwelcome bits of wisdom from on high. It takes patience and a desire to empower those we love to find the answers. We need to let them know they are not fragile and defenseless, they are bright and capable and strong and up to the task. We need to empower them to make mistakes and learn from them, and have a confidence in their ability to choose. 

It is never easy. The nurturer gene runs strong in those of us called to this journey.  I always say when I get involved, the mama bear comes out.  I want to fix it. It want to make 100% sure they succeed. I want to make sure they are heard and that what they say is respected. I want to catch them before they fall.  None of this helps another person grow. It simply keeps them dependent on you.

It was very hard when I became a mother. All three of my kinds were bullied and I felt like such a failure as a parent in trying to stop it. I couldn't. The school couldn't. It was heart breaking and caused problems with our family dynamics. It affected all three kids long term. Looking back, what I missed in there was the personal support and empowerment.  How? I have no idea, but I know it was important. They needed to be given control in whatever way they could have it. 

Despite my mother bear urges, I am fortunate that all three of my kids seemed to find their legs. They are strong, independent, opinionated adults who have no problem telling me when I overstep or offer advice that is outdated. I have learned to share things in a different way, such as here is an idea to consider or something that I read when I was in that situation. Then it is followed by, see if it is right for you or things may have changed since then.

Photo by Medienstürmer on Unsplash

The fault for this dilemma doesn't fall just on the mentors.  It falls on those being mentored as well.  There is a strong push for the mentor to fit into a role those mentored are comfortable with - to behave in a way they feel is required. That means the hard conversations about what we see on a bigger scale - the pattern that is defining them in this moment - is not allowed to happen.  For me, giving the bigger picture is the most important part of supporting someone so that they can really see what is happening. From there it becomes all about empowering them to find a new path. The details of how they move forward need to come from inside them. 

Photo by Joshua Clay on Unsplash

Step in, step out, step in, step out - it's a wild ride that isn't always easy. But the reward when we get it right, someone stepping into their power and taking control, is worth the journey.  The blips along the way fade quickly.  Let me continue to learn how to best support someone in finding their own answers. Let me continue to help them have faith in their instincts.  And let me have patience with the roller coaster ride that seems to be the journey required when mentoring.