I love my daughter. She has given my life meaning in ways I never thought possible and I treasure every moment and memory. Even the struggles. In all those years I spent raising her, I learned far more from her than she ever learned from me. I had to look at my own life and ask hard questions about the type of person I wanted to be. The example I wanted to present. I was reflected in her eyes and wanted more then anything to be the image she would be proud to see. Now she’s a grown woman, living on her own. Making all her own decisions.
But before this, those choices had to filter through me.
When my daughter was 10 my brother invited her join to him and his wife on a road trip to San Diego to visit his sister-in-law’s family. She was excited to get out of the house and away from the heat. I admit, I was excited to have a week to call my own. My brother and his wife are eight years my senior and didn’t have a clue what they were getting into. Their children had long ago left the house and when they came back it was more to relax and talk. Like most 10 year -olds, she was like a jumping bean- sitting for any length of time was intolerable.
I remember getting a call late one afternoon from a clearly exhausted sibling. My daughter was driving him crazy! This was after the phone call from my daughter whining that he didn’t want to do anything until afternoon because he was just,
“Too old to move in the morning and then had to get to bed early in the evening.”
There seemed to be a brief overlap in which they were both ready to go. My brother was initially excited to have a companion who wanted to join him for outings so he took my daughter on a 2 hour bike ride around the waterway. Pleased he’d gotten outdoors and exercised he was ready to head home. To his chagrin she was just getting stared. Not wanting to prove his age he agreed to roller blade for another two hours. Once again thinking she’d be ready to go home. Oh no, she then wanted to join a volleyball game they passed on the beach. Which they did. Two hours later he’s talking to me on the phone. She is on the grass behind him doing cartwheels and hand stands while he’s wondering how he’s going to get up the energy to drive them home!
I couldn’t stop laughing when I heard the anguish in his voice. He’d forgotten how hard it was to keep up with a 10-year-old when you’re 40 years her senior. That’s why we brought friends on road trips or long excursions- they exhausted each other and we get to participate until we were ready to rest and watch.
Then they become teenagers with the infamous rolling of their eyes, flick of their hair and constant cry of “Moooom” or “Daaaad” because they think we are too ridiculous for words. We hear comments on how their ancient, maybe 30 year-old teachers, can’t possibly relate to them. How all parents must know what it was like before the invention of cars. Or believe we have no clue about anything contemporary while they’re signing along to a remake of a Beatles song, just remember:
It’s not us, it’s them.
When they are adamant they can move to the other side of the country and be happy. That visiting only at holidays would never be an issue because, yes they love you, but you’re not the only thing in their lives. They’re older now and they remind you it’s time to let go so they can become more self sufficient.
You later remind them that it costs far too much to bring them home at a moment’s notice when their sweet, sad voice is calling, begging for a visit after a breakup with their boyfriend, a poor test score, or they’re lonely. Frustrated they have to live with their decision, they still don’t acknowledge it’s harder to be a 1,000 miles away than they thought it would be.
It’s not us, it’s them.
When they take their eyes off the road for
“Just a second,”
after promising to put their phone away and then hit a pole, but thankfully hurting no one, it’s all about when they’ll get the car back. In parent speak the answer is:
“Never! You blew your chance, now ride the bus.”
The reality of how much it’ll cost, the increase in insurance, to say nothing about the inconvenience, is irrelevant.
You will understand it’s not us, it’s them.
When your 13 year-old decides to cut and color their own hair, creating a mess even you can’t imagine having to look at daily. But you do.
It’s not us, it’s them.
They’re old enough to get a credit card but not understand the consequences. No matter how many times you explain debt is an albatross and not to be looked at as an easy way to get what you want now when you can’t afford it. They just think you’re overly concerned only to appreciate your wise words too late.
Not honoring wisdoms offered is them, not us.
Your child tells you they’re in love and they’re going to go on the road and
You try to explain the hazards and potential error of their ways, worried sick about their welfare and future. Adamant you’re just not capable of understanding what it means to be young, they ignore you and then get stranded.
You finally hope-
That will be the moment they realize it’s not us, it’s them.
As they grow up, there comes a time when all our well meaning guidance and support has to recede into the background. When our children have to learn their strengths and abilities by dealing with their own consequences.
That’s the hardest lesson we can teach.