It’s not about you
I had a moment last night where I distinctly felt I had to level up as a conscious parent. My son and I were in the midst of getting his application forms for high school together. In the essay question about family, he started by saying he doesn’t consider his family close because his mom and dad are separated. He followed that up with positive things, but as a mother I couldn’t keep my heart from breaking, and though I appreciated everything else he said, something inside me kept reaching back to that statement.
I wanted to protest gently and say, “But in our home, our little family is very close and in Papa’s home your family there is close, too!”, but I consciously held back and decided to breathe through the roiling emotions instead. He’s fourteen and that statement could be a mere observation coming from a perception, one picture of what a close family might be. Whatever it was, I was inwardly clear that I didn’t want to impose my emotions on him. That’s one thing I’ve seen too many parents do to their children; too many kids have been hurt by that. I want to leave my children free with their thoughts and feelings, so that they can develop their inner life with all the room they need. I am the adult and I try my best to behave like it and that means trying to give my children the space they need to be fully themselves. When you respect someone’s feeling life, you don’t try and correct his perception of it by trying to insert your own picture of things just because it will make you feel better.
I had to come to terms with what was really just a knee-jerk emotional response. I breathed through it, slept on it and woke up so thankful that I let it be. I have my own idea of what my family is like from the way we are towards each other, our shared experiences painful and good, which include our silliest and most trying moments, too. My son may have a different picture and that is fine. I want him to have that and be comfortable that whatever that picture is, it’s his and it’s valid. I will not discount it or aim to adjust it.
As our children grow up, it’s so important that we expand our view of who they are to include the individuals they are becoming. It was right to put a cloak of protection around them when they were infants and toddlers, but it is also right to loosen the cloak and let more air and perhaps even a swirl of leaves and weeds in from time to time, as they grow and become.
Last night was one of those wake-up-it’s-not-about-you moments and I’m glad I saw it and gave my son his own space. I can only hope to be continually guided as I enter my first round of being mom to a teenager. May equanimity and clarity be always on my side.