When does an adult child become an adult in a parent’s eyes? For some us NEVER! That is our own blind spot. Your child’s independence begins with its first step; its first use of language, with its first, but definite, “No!” Its first real leaving us, sometimes reluctantly, is at the nursery school door. From there it is on to grade school, not hesitantly this time. When they reach middle and high school, most children are raring to go! They still need us, but we are no longer the center of their lives, while they are still our center. Now it is all about their peers, their marvelous “new to us” iPads, iPhones, computer, computer games – that is their reality. It is natural, it is fair, yet it does not seem so to us. It is hard to let go. We hold in our minds the image of the sobbing three year old was has skinned its knee, the loving embrace of a five year old asking, “What do you think?”, or the ten year old inquiring, “Do you like it? I made it especially for you.”
Suddenly it is just you and your spouse. “Alone at last” is not always your response. You haven’t had to deal with each other for quite a while. You always had that child between you. You planned for it and hoped for it each step of the way; but a grownup? Now reality sets in and often finds you unprepared.
The biggest change comes with high school graduation. This is not going quite the way you thought it would. Perhaps you had in mind a lovely quiet dinner with extended family after the ceremony. No, the child is going to a huge party, usually in
Brooklyn, at night, no parents allowed! Oh well. Next
your child is going off to college, nowhere near you and is never really coming
home as a permanent resident, if you are lucky in these hard economic times.
Long before the word “Parenting” became part of the English language, the best “parting” advice I know was to be found in a book called “Claudia” by Rose Franken, published in the early 1940s. Speaking of the child-parent bond Franken wrote “hold close with open hands.” I have lived by that motto. Trying to hold tightly to your child, to protect it constantly, even with the best of intentions, will not be appreciated. How can anyone grow up without knowing disappointment and pain? It cannot be done! We must realize that our children can and will cope with hardship. Hopefully, we taught them how.
Our children do not belong to us. They never did. Everything we think we own is an illusion. Everything and everyone we love is on loan. We can enjoy many things, especially our children. Our greatest gift to them is to let them go, let them grow up, although that can mean our growing apart from them. Separation is a lifelong task and not always easy or pleasant. From birth to death we separate from those we love. Our children must find their own identities, just as we fought to find ours from our own mothers and fathers. At times we grow closer to each other, at other times more distant. Our children grown up and we grow with them. Someone once said to me, “The most important things you can give your child are roots and wings and roots are not the hardest.”