The other day, my friend (I’ll call her Fran) and I were talking about our adult children. Just typing that, I do wonder – is that an oxymoron? Adult children? Anyway, as we discussed her son’s recent brush with bancruptcy, I heard her say something that ended with or included the phrase, “kids these days.” How many times did you hear your parents or grandparents use that phrase and think, as you rolled your eyes, “Oh my gosh, they are so old.” I mean, it is one of those phrases that could easily be found hanging out with, “when I was a kid.” Of course, I swore I would never be so closed minded not to have compassion for those less experienced in life than I, and I would always realize that time moves on and things change!
Even so, I find myself, in my fifty-year-old aged wisdom, shaking my head and wondering why younger people do the things they do or act they way they act. And then I wonder, did I do those things? Was I ever that irresponsible, lazy, inconsiderate, self-centered, naive, stubborn, wreckless – well, you get the point. Any of those words that “old” people use to describe “young” people who are not acting from what we, as experienced and aging adults, might know how better to do in or with whatever it is they are doing “wrong.”
As a parent sitting back with my hands tied behind my back, I realize where all these judgments come from. They come from parents who love their children, but who can no longer control them and worse yet, we can no longer rescue them or save them from themselves.
Fran was talking about the tension her massage therapist told her she needed to let go of. Her therapist told her she needed to shut off her brain. She could not help her son by worrying about him. But I could see the real problem – Fran wanted to save him from himself. Just like when he was little and wanted to run across the ice in his high top white leather toddler shoes with the slick bottoms. She wanted to swoop him up and carry him across it, pull him close to her breast and bury her face in the folds of his sweet neck, and if she would fall, she would catch him on her soft stomach, and the only one that would get hurt would be her.
That is the life of a mother, though. We spend our whole lives making the best life we can for our little creations. They are this wondrous extension of ourselves, or so we think. Then they grow up. They move out. They get married. Suddenly, it seems, they don’t need your hand to hold. And they not only ignore it as you reach out, sometimes they defiantly swat it away, stating that they are grown up now and don’t need a mommy, never noticing that maybe you still need them.
We are left to stand by and watch helplessly, as if this lion of a life has just ripped off the most favorite part of our body and is carrying it away. The blood pours from that open wound at first, and the pain, well, a tiny scratch hurts, but we are talking excrutiating pain. As time goes by, the wound starts to clot and heal, and remarkably, when at first you felt you might not survive, a new skin forms. I felt my forming, and I realized that what I was growing there was a callous. Hard, scaly skin was never something I found appealing, so I have been trying to keep it soft, keep my heart open and realize that – this is life. A natural progression.
I will be fifty-years-old this year. I know, I can’t believe it either! Here’s an old, run into the ground question – Where did the time go?
I was looking at old photos of my kids the other day at my mom’s house with my two younger sisters present. I couldn’t control the emotion, and as I looked at them, I wept. I’ll never have my dark haired, darling daughter’s little hand to hold again. I’ll never look down into my oldest son’s crystal blue eyes framed with blonde locks again. And I will never fasten red IU bibs up over my youngest son’s chubby belly again. Oh, I could go on and list the many, many things I miss about being a mommy. But my cheeks are wet enough. My husband will be home soon, and I’m sure he really doesn’t want to hear about it. I told my sisters to treasure every moment (yes, another worn out cliche’).
Anyway, as my children have gone on to make lives of their own, and I watch them teetering on the edge of life, I remind myself time and again, that I was once young and made many mistakes to get to the place I am now. There is no growth without at least a little pain. So is that what I would want for them – a painless, stunted life? No, definitely not. So with that, I have buckled my seatbelt, and I am ready. And they know, if they need me, I am here!