Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Parent Grows Up

This month all three of my daughters came for a visit.  I loved having them here one at a time.

I'm walking a fine balance with them though, between treating them like children and treating them like adults.  And that creates tension.  Over and over I heard versions of "I'm a grown-up now; you don't have to worry about that."

We talked some about this during our time together, and it made me start thinking about how things were with my own parents.  My mother died when I was thirty.  I had a baby, and she wanted to help me while I didn't think she (who had had five children!) knew a damn thing about how people took care of babies now.  We weren't friends or equals at all.  And that's how it ended:  she was my mother and I was her child.

With my father, things were different.  Over the years we developed a relationship of a more equal nature.  We talked about books and music, he gave advice when asked but never at any other time. I felt he respected me as an adult and approved of me.  He provided space where I could go for comfort.

I want to "help" my kids in the same way my mother helped me. I want to give them things, especially advice, that will keep them from making mistakes or getting hurt.  I want them to have everything they need and some things they want.  I want to suggest good books and music.  I want their boyfriends to treat them right. And of course I want that nebulous thing: for them to be happy.

Now that I've started thinking about it and talking about it, I can see that the relationship I had with my dad would be best.  I can give up the idea that I have any control over their lives, that for the most part my job now is to be there when they call or visit, to listen and not advise unless asked.  And finally, to provide for them what my dad provided for me, a place--whether physical or emotional--where they can come and recharge their batteries, be respected as an adult, and feel loved.

I've liked being needed in the old ways, but it's time to put that aside now.  There are new ways to relate to my adult children and I'm going to learn those new ways with their help.


Nneka, Working Mystic said...

Hmmm, Mamie, you made me think about my relationship with my parents. Up until my early 30's, my primary identification was that I was my father's daughter. Incidentally, at the time I was going through my divorce. I didn't really feel like I owned my life until I got to 30-something.

My parents still see me as their child even though when I grew up with my grandparents. It makes things a bit complicated. I think to my mother, I'm now a teenager.


mamie said...

It's never quite as easy as "Now I'm thirty; can you quit treating me like a kid" is it? Stay close to the one who thinks you're still a teenager, and find more people with that mindset!! NEVER GROW UP, right?

Thanks for stopping by!