Thursday, May 24, 2012

Letting go - parents and kids

I was cleaning the other day and ran across two journals I had started when my children were young. I had intended to write down memorable things they said and did as they grew up, but I didn’t get very far. Not surprisingly, “life” intervened and I had made only a few entries in each notebook. But one item caught my eye. My eldest daughter had told me, “I want to be poor when I grow up so I can live with you.”

I’m flattered she had loved me so much.  Out of curiosity, I decided to test her to see how she felt about this today. But I posed the question a little differently. “If I’m poor when I retire,” I asked, “how would you feel if I lived with you?” “Well,” she hesitated, “if you absolutely have nowhere else to go, I suppose you’d have to.”

What happened to my loving, trusting little girl? What a difference a few years make!

When kids are young, they can’t imagine life without their parents. When I was young, I thought children died when their parents did. I obviously hadn’t thought this through, but that didn’t matter.  I had no concept of myself independent of them. We were completely symbiotic: if they die, I die. It did occur to me that, by this logic, if they died “tomorrow,” I would never grow up. This puzzled but did not worry me. I thought that’s just how things are.

But my parents did not die, hence my ability to write this post! It’s the paradox of parenting:  you want your children to love you, and to some extent, need you, but it’s your job to teach them to live without you. The truest act of love is to drive your children away! Maybe that’s why my parents gave each of their children a suitcase as a high school graduation gift.

As my daughter intrinsically knew, parents and adult children in Sweden and in the United States do not live together unless they have to. So she needed the excuse of poverty to continue to live with me as an adult. She did not yet know she can have both self-reliance and a live-in mom, if she wants.

But now she does, and she’s no longer as keen on the mom part. Paradoxically, the better I do my job as a parent, the less my children need me. Yet, the more I need them.

I’ll miss her when she moves on. But maybe she’ll miss me, just a little, too.

© 2012 Kvick Thoughts. All rights reserved. 

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