I’ve written before, in other places, about how in parenting I mostly have looked forward instead of backwards. I was never super into the tiny baby period, and having a child with developmental delays really helped me to have a deep appreciation for moving on and reaching milestones. Advances mostly felt more sweet than bittersweet. I thought I had it all figured out and that I was somehow a little more evolved than others. Ha. As usual, when I think a thing and feel super smug or confident in in, the universe snaps back to teach me a well-deserved lesson.
My children are no longer children. They are now 20 and 17 and very much their own people. Staying at home with them for the past 15 months was hard but also wonderful, and I feel that I got to know them even better and love them even more. Yes, we all got sick of one another from time to time. Pandemic life wasn’t super fun a lot of the time and we all kind of rotated in and out of having dips in our mental health. But I still appreciate the time and am grateful that as we come out of isolation, we all still like each other.
This extreme togetherness has had some negative effects for me as well. I find myself unhealthily obssessed with my offspring now, and have a hard time being away from them. I realized today on my drive in to work that part of this might be some PTSD from the pandemic itself, in addition to some helicopter-leaning parenting that I do want to nip in the bud. A lot has happened, just over the past few months for me, and I am in a constant state of processing it and trying to make sense of my life now.
A big theme that has come out of my thinking is that embracing change is essential to my happiness. I am generally not afraid of change — you hear of people who never change anything and get panicky when inevitable changes in life occur. I don’t think that describes me exactly, but I do have this other thought pattern I’ve had since childhood where I want the people in my life to all be Forever People. I have a really hard time with relationships changing, even when they are not working for me or in need of an overhaul. I don’t like thinking about the lack of continuity (that’s how my brain sees it) of having person in your life and then they are not, and along with their exit goes all the memories you shared. I know this is not rational. I can keep whatever memories I want to, but sometimes all they do is make me sad – when that relationship is done. This is why I had such a giant meltdown at some point (time means nothing to me now) about Paul and all my Paul memories. Like, I can hardly entertain them because it reminds me of the fact that my relationship with him was not a forever one. I think as I observe my kids growing and evolving, I somehow mentally fall into a thinking pattern that’s alerting me that I might lose them, too. That they also might not be my Forever People.
I do realize that this is most likely all tied to my own mortality. I want to allow change to happen and to roll with it. I want to KNOW that change is natural and normal. I want to enjoy it better. This all comes back to what I started saying about my kids. They are not kids anymore, and they are changing in lots of ways that are exciting and difficult for me. I have always wanted to be a parent who supports my children unconditionally, and I think I am still succeeding at that, but I am absolutely shocked at how much I am longing for a simpler time when I was making all the decisions for them. I never thought I’d say that or feel this way. Any feeling of “control” that I’ve ever had with regards to them is vanishing quickly, and it’s now time for me to step back and allow them to become the people they are meant to be. I am surprised that this is much harder than it seems. Intellectually, I know this is right and just, and it’s what I have always known I would do as a parent. In practice, it’s a challenge.
Part of the closeness during the pandemic is that I lost myself a little, I think. Working from home, cooking all our meals, trapped in the house for so many months, I fell into my “mom” role fiercly. Dealing with their school stuff and mental health issues, I reverted back to how things were when they were little and they needed me for everything. I am not blaming them; they were for the most part really easy in terms of being decent people and not trying to do anything that would endanger our family with regards to COVID. They suffered, too, though, by being isolated from their peers for months on end. I am sure if they had it in them to write a blog post about their experience, they might also share that they felt a little lost.
When I’m in a quiet place, the smart voice that does sometimes emerge from my manic thoughts is telling me that the answer to my angst is to become more of myself, and to let my kids become more of themselves. I need more space for me, for the me that is also a mom but not soley a mom. I’m having such a hard time being away from them, though, but I think the answer to that is to continue to build up my strength in being away from them. I need to build on the knowledge that they are not static, and neither am I. When you really love someone, you give them the space to change and grow over and over again. You cannot expect your relationship to be any one thing because we are not any one thing. Sometimes I go back and read what I have written a few months ago or a couple years ago, and I swear I don’t even recognize myself. I am always changing. So are you. So are the people we brought into the world.
I don’t mean to get super cheesy or philosophical on you, but this reminds me of a quote that I have been thinking of and I will close in sharing it with you:
Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And thought they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which
you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.