“I’m sorry. I’m not what you wanted.”
We enter into the experience of parenthood with many different expectations. We want our children to grow up and become successful, rich, fulfilled, passionate, great parents, etc. We want to envision ourselves grow into the perfect grandparent; the archetypal example of proud parental perfection that sprouted such abundance from our loins!
And then many times our kids diverge from the path we envisioned for them. They might not get the career path we hoped, they might start experiencing with drugs, they might get too ambitious – or not ambitious enough, they might get to be parents “too early or too late” for our calculations to work, they might run into emotional difficulties, they might choose a different faith or political persuasion than the one we endorse, or worst of all, they might cut us off and tell us that they do not want us in their life anymore.
We sit back and think:
I started out feeding them, schlepping them around, being their literal sustenance.
I became the all seeing eyes and all hearing ears that protected them against bruises and bumps during toddler hood.
I chose which schools they should attend, made lunches and supervised homework
I helped them develop good study habits, make “good choices”, helped them “say no to drugs”
I drove them to and from sports, dances, plays, performances, science fairs, field trips…
I fought/negotiated with them over bed time, home work, curfews
I allowed my heart to be broken every time they got their heart broken
I put my own needs aside and always thought of theirs first
If only I had…. then maybe…..
Parenthood is a litany of to-do lists, nagging doubts and endless investments in our children’s lives. We start out as parental protectors and watch our role merge into field guides in the later teen years. By the time our kids move away, our role has diminished to that of simply antiquated “has been” or at best well-meaning old beloved friend.
So obviously for us if you look at your children from a “profit and loss” stand point… this parenting thing makes very little sense. We put MUCH, much more into the “investment” than we are ever able to recover. If we were to look at parenting rationally, it is hard work and it costs us tons of time, heartache and money. Period!
I know… parenting is not a sensible investment or a rational act even. It is the entry point into the most basic shared human experience: The mystery of procreation. Parenting allows participation in the highest highs and the lowest lows we will ever experience. Parenting is at its core a deeply emotional, life-altering, stunning and deeply irrational experience! It can be the most giving, beautiful, emotionally satisfying experience of our lives. And it can bring a sense of joy, fulfillment and pride nothing else can! No doubt about it.
But once we acknowledge the irrational and highly emotional and subjective aspect of parenthood, then it might also be beneficial to realize that when we apply logical and rational measures and start expecting certain things from our grown children, we are really violating the most basic rule of parenthood: We violate the terms of the agreement when we expect to make our energy/time/money investment bear the fruit we expected of it. Parenting is more like an investment in the Greek economy than in Apple Computers: It doesn’t make rational sense! Our kids do what our kids do. They are who they are and there is nothing we can do about it! This might ultimately be more cause for celebration than for worry, once we let go of our expectations and beliefs that we know what is best for them.
Now here is the important part:
How can you start enjoying your current role as parent of adult children more?
How can you allow your grown children to find their own way without feeling you are to blame/be credited?
How can you enjoy your grown kids for who they are and not who you thought they would be?
The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind…. and I know that you upon a little reflection will come up with just the right answers for you!