the nest

the nest

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

staying out of the way

This launching of children is an always fascinating journey.  It is as much about launching yourself into the next part of your life as it is about actually launching your children into the next part of theirs.  Maybe that's why it seems so many don't launch successfully ~ we don't want them to.  If they do, then we have to move on.  The current cult of "Mommy" makes it all consuming for better or worse.  If our entire existence has been wrapped up in being "Mommy," what's next?
I expected sending child number two to college would be more difficult than child one for a number of reasons:  Number one is a boy and was not always communicative with his Mama.  He also went to school 30 minutes away.  I can take him to lunch pretty much any time.  Number two is a girl who tells her Mama almost everything.  She went to school 1000 miles away.  With Thanksgiving upon us, we are enjoying her company for the first time since we dropped her off in late August.  I miss them both, but it's honestly it's been an easier transition this time.
I can explain it in so many ways - she contacts me via text, phone, fb and FaceTime on a regular basis.  She's in a place that we know well and love, so even though it's far away, I can picture where she is at any given time.  This is comforting.  I don't think any of these are really the true answers though.
The first time, I was not at all sure I was ready to see my children grown up.  If they are growing up, does that mean I am growing old?  If I'm growing old, what have I done with my life?  What about everything I was going to do before I was 30? 40?
This time, it just feels different.  I can see my life evolving into one where being "mom" becomes a little less time intensive.  With one still at home, there is still plenty of driving around, writing checks, listening to dramas, arguing, laughing, etc... But it's different.
I'm seeing the grown-ups my children are becoming, and I LIKE them a lot!  I want them to be their own best selves and to do that I have to let them figure it out on their own.  I think I'm pretty good about not giving unsolicited advice, but what can be really hard is knowing what advice to give when it is requested.
My Dad is a master at this!  My whole life I have both been infuriated and grateful when he has answered a request for advice with a statement like, "I know you'll make the right decision."  He would thoughtfully help me weigh the options, but would NEVER TELL ME WHAT TO DO.  Even when I wanted him to.  His trust in me (well placed or not) empowered me to OWN my decisions.  Regardless of whether they were ultimately the "right" ones or not, the fact that I made them allowed me to accept responsibility for them and move on.
But this is risky territory.  I'm sure that before I moved from MN to CT at 22 years old, I asked my Dad what I should do.  I'm pretty sure he and my Mom would have loved to have said "It's too far! Stay here!"  But they didn't.  They let me decide and while I never doubted they would miss me, I never felt pressured to make them happy by staying.
Katy is home from Iowa for Thanksgiving because she won't be home for Christmas.  Her Swim and Dive Team will be taking a training trip to San Diego and she is too far away to come home for the few days before or after.  Last night she was having second thoughts.  Being away for Christmas doesn't sound right.  While I would love to have her home for the holidays, I'm also excited for her to have the opportunity to travel and see new places and experience new things.  Ultimately it's her decision and we will support her either way.  She will need to make her own decision, accept it and move on.
One of the real challenges of parenting is putting what is right for our children FIRST.  Their life is not about us, it's about them.  The cult of "Mommy" tells us otherwise ~ I see more and more children who can't make basic decisions for themselves because their parents make them all.  If we don't let them make little decisions, how do we ever expect them to make big ones that really matter?
Would I love for my children to all stay close by as they become adults? Sure!  Will I pressure them to do so?  No.  It is not about me and what I want.  It is about where they need to go and what they need to do to thrive and grow and contribute to this crazy world we live in.
When our children are born they need us to survive, but from the moment they take their first breathe, their life journey is to take on more and more responsibility for their own survival.  It is our job to model a good life for them. To teach them the skills they need and then stay out of their way as they try and experiment and play.  From the moment they feel air we are beginning to let them go.  It is scary but also exciting.
What have I done with my life so far?  Raised three amazing, compassionate, crazy people who will make the world a better place.  They're not done yet (none of us ever really are!), but I think they're doing pretty well!

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