Noticed my long haired child combing fresh washed strands. Tearing the hair as the comb was forced top to bottom. I instructed, pointed out, shared my wisdom. Start at the ends. Comb just the last few inches then work your way up to the top. Less ripping and breaking. Will help your hair look smoother.
If you are a parent I am certain you have instructed your kids in any number of activities. Pointers on how to do “it” better. I have heard enough parents bagging on their kids to understand that, sometimes, our progeny appear to pay no heed. The children continue to do it their own way and, sometimes, we parents get wound up about that.
Occasionally we go looking for extraneous causation. Did he/she not hear me? Does your child have a hearing impairment? No? Then they heard you. Let’s fact check the others: Physically capable? Check. Mentally capable? Check. Has exhibited intuitive understanding, problem solving skills, and capacity to manage themselves? Check, check, check. So what is wrong? Actually there is nothing amiss.
I remember finally understanding the Elizabeth Stone quote “To have a child is to forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” There is a tether, a thread, between each of my sons and I. One end is anchored in my heart. It is simultaneously breath takingly exquisite and deeply painful. A love that swells in the chest and courses through my veins. I was totally ambiguous about having children until my first came out. Then the mom switch was flipped. “Oh, NOW I understand.” We parents would do almost anything to protect and provide for our children. There resides in me a momma bear whom, I can say with great confidence, would attack if required. Once when my youngest was just old enough to go into a public restroom by himself he asked to go while I was in the checkout lane. Of course you can. I stood in line watching every male going into and out of that archway with hawk piercing gaze. Mentally accessed the likelihood of each individual being a child molester. Strained my ears to pick up any sound indicating struggle until my boy reappeared. The boys are now men and under threat they would more likely be protecting me.
What do we parents desire for our offspring? We want them to be independent, to thrive. Which is the ultimate goal. We wish for happiness, fulfilling work, nurturing relationships and love. We want them to be confident, function well, and find their place. At times with our great love and deep desires we lose track of the end goal. We forget growing up is a lifelong process. One that we ourselves are still working on. We parents can get short circuited in the moment. When the child does not heed my sage hair care advice my ego flares it’s ugly head. The story ego tells suggests the child is insolent. That I, parent, am considered outdated. However the response from our kids does not equal our irrelevance. Again, the response from our children does not equal lack of respect, love, value or anything else our ego comes up with. The child is displaying the very quality of independence and self sufficiency I want him to have.
Another darker side of my guardian persona catastrophizes. I allow fear for what maybe. Fear for what may happen. Fear of what they are and are not doing may indicate about them. Will they get themselves behind the eight ball if they pass on that opportunity? My worrier can run wild on the tiniest detail. One application a week isn’t enough, can’t be enough. It’s a numbers game you have to push harder if you are going to succeed. I want assurances that my sons will be okay. Catastrophizing blinds us to the truth of our daughters and sons. The truth of how far they have come already. How much knowledge and wisdom they possess. The truth that we should not endeavor to shield these people from the world nor can we protect them from the universe. The truth that, no matter what, we can choose be there for them.
So why is it hard to let “it” go? Because, I put the instruction, pointing out, sage advice, under the heading of providing for my offspring. I want them to have the benefit of my experience so they can have an easier road. While that is nobel and heart felt it also undermines the very intent to raise confident, autonomous, strong, resilient humans. We unknowingly deny them experience and struggle needed to gain strength and resilience. We worry instead of champion. Get concerned about them instead of trusting them to figure it out. There is also that part of us that wants to look good, be approved of by association, when our kids do well. A part in each adult still dealing with their own worthiness. Being a parent, adulting, means separating our ego and need for approval from the relationship with our sons and daughters. It demands courage to believe they can learn from their choices just as we have. Adulting asks us to take the high ground, set aside our reactive emotions in order to hold space. It requires us to see trust, respect, and connection as two way streets.
He may still comb his hair top to bottom tearing out strands as he goes. Such an insignificant thing. So much of what we might get hung up on is insignificant considering the amazing and whole people gifted us to love and be loved by.
For Your Best Possible Self
Coach Christine Clark