I had an "ah-ha" moment a week or so ago about being a hovering parent. We were at a mall in a large metro area. We had driven 250 miles that morning and were meeting my sister and her family for lunch (and spend the rest of the weekend, we don't drive that far just for lunch). My children were excited and quickly got out of the car and walked toward the mall entrance. We were parked very close to the entrance, so they only had to cross one traffic area. Still, I called to them to wait for me before crossing.
As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized just how protective I was being. My youngest child is five and I have taught her how to look for traffic before crossing. She is responsible enough to remember to do it. She is also responsible enough to get herself up in the morning, make her bed, get dressed, and put breakfast on the table before school. Of course, anyone can get excited and forget to look for cars coming and I'm right there, why not be completely safe? Because she will never gain her own sense of independence if I'm always hovering, double-checking her decisions.
In a nutshell, parenting really boils down to caring and protecting, teaching, and then letting go. And, knowing when to let go can be just as hard as the other responsibilities. The bottom line is that you have to let go at some point. I don't yet have teenagers, but I have heard that the challenges of the teenage years are the juxtaposition of children wanting their independence and parents not wanting to give it to them. I figure if I start now learning how to let go little by little, I just might learn something about me and my children before I am the mother of a teenager.