I’ve been pondering parenting lately. I am a parent so it is a topic with which I’ve wrestled and loved for 40 years this month, the age of my oldest child. And, without a doubt, being a parent is the most meaningful experience of my life. I’ve realized, however, the role comes with no retirement package or pension rewarding us for work that has consumed us since that first ultrasound revealed barely detectible facial features and hands. (Don’t you remember the early ultrasounds when you were required to drink a gallon of water and not pee so the image could be clearer? One of the perils of pregnancy right up there with morning sickness and labor pains-sans epidural.)
I’m recently returned from a visit to my Evanston, Illinois children and grandchildren.
I really believe grandchildren are our reward for all the emotional, physical, and financial efforts we have invested in our children. But I watched with wonder and no shortage of amusement when my almost three year old grandson climbed into his mother’s lap, index finger outstretched, saying “Here is my nose booger, Mom.”
It’s an understatement to say parenting is excruciatingly intimate.
We literally gave these little humans a part of ourselves. Nourishing them, wiping poopy bottoms and snotty noses gave us the impression we owned these emerging people and had the right to control them.
Fast forward to their adulthood (and fast is the operative word. In a blink of an eye these toddling two year olds age into argumentative adults.) But my $100 question is, how do you regard your children without using your own lenses? The ones through which you have viewed the world and evaluated your life for the past 60+ years. What is important to me must be important to you, is our rhetorical refrain. “You would be happy if….” “Why are you hanging out with that guy? “If I were you I would…” Baby boomer parents have hovered our whole parental careers, prodding and pleading, nudging and judging. (Although I think millennial parents are giving us a run for our money”.) Just because they have our fine, thin hair and dogged determination doesn’t mean they will use these traits as we do.
I lost control of my foot this summer. No matter how much I demanded, pleaded, or cajoled my foot it refused to dorsiflex more than -55 degrees. The one thing I could control, however, was my rehab efforts, faithfully wearing my AFO brace and undergoing acupuncture to stimulate my damaged nerve. And the work is paying off, so far by an increase of 40 degrees.
I wish, I hope, and I want to slap this realization squarely on those (s)mothering urges seeking to exert control in various areas of my children’s lives. Child psychologists routinely preach this message to parents of adult children (I happen to even have a child psychologist daughter in law who also realizes it is easier to preach the message than act on it herself).
Why don’t I just try focusing on what I can control? Like my reactions to panicked news flashes from my progenies? Maybe listening rather than solving is a strategy. Trying to control the decisions and actions of others even those with whom we share DNA, only leads to agitation and anguish or worse, getting lied to.
Are you a family fixer too? As Sheryl Crow sings, “I have a feeling I’m not the only one…”