This afternoon I was reading Steven Lewis’ collection of personal essays called Zen and the Art of Fatherhood. I came across this quote: Every parting gives a foretaste of death; every coming together again a foretaste of the resurrection. –Schopenhauer
This quote is particularly poignant to me today because I am thinking about my daughter who will be entering a whole new phase of her life later this month: Elementary School. Yep, First Grade is just a few short weeks away, and I suddenly feel like I am loosing her. As parents are apt to do, I am projecting years down the line, when she’ll have violin lessons and homework every night and parties of her own to go to, and I am getting teary-eyed, thinking I’m loosing my little girl. But I’m not, of course. I may have lost the years of holding and cooing to my baby, I am gaining a headstrong young girl who likes to play board games and tell stories. There is a death there, but a resurrection as well.
It’s not so different from when teenagers start dating and moving towards sexual encounters.
The particulars, of course, are completely different, but the root parental emotions can be similar. This is a tangible sign of my little one growing up, and it’s taken me by surprise by how early it seems to have come. I’m worried about my daughter’s developing strong relationships with people outside our intimate circle of family and whether or not she will make wise choices with her time and attention. I’m worried she might hurt other people’s feelings, that she might get hurt, and that she might not learn enough quickly enough.
And when all these thoughts and worries start swirling around in my head, I talk myself back from the precipice. She is old enough – she has proven this to me not only by her chronological age, but more importantly by her cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development. When I try and see her less as a stretched-out-version of my 7lb. 9oz. baby, and more as the strong, intelligent girl that she is, I know she is ready for this change.
Every step in the road our children take towards adulthood holds a bittersweetness. We are coming apart and we are coming together in the same moment. We are holding the death and the resurrection simultaneously. This is our parental road-to-hoe, whether our children are newborns or adults or any place in between.
Many parents have a particularly difficult time balancing when their children are approaching romance and a budding sexuality. For some parents, it helps to remember that your child’s sexual awakening is merely another of life’s stages that you hope for your child to navigate safely and come out the other side as a competent adult. The goal is not to keep your teenagers from crossing this path, but for them to cross it with attention and care.
This post brings to mind so many images of my child, growing through and leaving behind the things of childhood, moving into adulthood, leaving behind any need of a ‘mother’ as a person who runs the world. But, I am still aware of my child, as an adult, who still needs me, not as a ‘mother’ but still as her mother and hopefully as a valued advisor/friend. The richness of parenting continues long after the need for parenting is gone. Thanks for reminding me.
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