the nest

the nest

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's not my life.

Lots of time over vacation to think about my children growing up and away.  This was our first vacation with just Helen.  Both big kids had already been in New Hampshire working - Andrew for 2 months, Katy for 3 weeks.  Both had opted to pass on a family reunion to stay and work with "their kids."  I knew I would miss them, but was proud that they made their own decisions and felt committed enough to their work to pass on a week of sun and fun with no responsibility.

July 4th as we were preparing to leave the next morning, we hear from Andrew that he is coming home.  He was in the "wrong place at the wrong time," and the camp policy is clear, so his time at Calumet for this summer ended suddenly.  He was devastated, but handled himself maturely, accepting responsibility, acknowledging that he needed to move forward and make the best of the rest of the summer.  He didn't place blame or cop an attitude.  He accepted how his life would change for the next few months, packed up and came home.

I was so upset!  Angry, disappointed, sad, frustrated and judgemental.  I left him a list of jobs to do while he was home and headed off on vacation.  I figured while I was away I would cool down.  I did until I heard from Katy who was devastated that her brother had left camp.  Two nights in a row I got late night calls from a tearful girl who had "lost her rock" and didn't think she could stay.  Two days I got mad all over again and worried that we would have to trek from Ohio to pick her up in New Hampshire.  Finally one night I said, if he's your rock, call him!  His response to her?  You have lots of "rocks" at camp.  Find them.  You'll be ok.  So far, he's been right.

We got home from vacation to find a house in relatively decent shape, a happy dog, and dinner cooking.  Why was I so pissed??  I couldn't bring myself to look at my handsome boy. I was so angry all over again.

Over the course of the night, I finally opened the conversation and heard the details of what had happened and truth be told, I've done worse in my youth.  It truly was a wrong place wrong time situation.  He's also the wrong age with many friends who are the "right" age which can make socializing sometimes tricky.  He was clear that what was done was done, but was not going to accept my trying to make it worse than it really was.

That night, all I could think was that my feelings about the whole situation were in many ways out of line.  As a parent is it reasonable for me to be angry and disappointed when my child messes up?  I suppose.  But if he was handling it maturely and moving on, what was my problem?  This wasn't about me, so why did it feel so personal?

It's not my life.  As parents we can get sucked into both taking too much credit for the good things our kids do and too much blame and guilt for the stupid things they do.  A friend of mine told me that by the time a child is 5, much of what you can teach them about life and how to handle it is learned.  From then on it's about gradually loosening the boundaries and sending them off to test the waters.  This includes making mistakes.  If we want them to truly learn from mistakes, we can't take responsibility for them.  If we want them to truly feel good about what they do well, we can't take credit for it either.

It's not my life.  I can't decide the path my children take.  I can hope that we have taught them what they need to know about making choices and accepting responsibility.  I can hope that find a path that leads them to a good life that makes the world a better place.  I must love and cherish them no matter what direction they go ~ they are my children, but their lives are their own to live.


  1. oh wow I love how you came to terms with this so quickly. I had many very minor incidents in my teen years that my parents held over my head for years. Even today they still reference a bad boyfriend choice in front of my husband any time the name is mentioned (which is, actually, often since it's the same as my father's name!). It's good that you can see this very early on in your children's young adult years.
    I hope I can do the same... the idea that I only have until 5 years old to instill "all the wisdom of the ages" (lol) is terrifying to me!! I hope that I will be able to "let it be" when they are adults. :) Thanks for always writing an inspiring post! I learn a lot from your parenting reflections as a newer mom.

  2. Thanks Julie~ unfortunately I think I will keep having to have this same conversation in my head as it is really hard for my not to take responsibility for both the good and the bad! Seeing my children as people separate from me is so important as I establish more adult relationships with them and that means that how I "mother" them is constantly shifting!