Parenting: The New Phase
Right now, the womanchild is taking her shower. She's spent the night here two nights in a row. Ever since our big disagreement she's been staying with an aunt. The breakup with the boyfriend has thawed our relationship some. She's wanted my presence and sometimes even my advice in this transition.
She's hurting so badly now. She's been too seriously involved with this young man for two year. She was thinking marriage in a few years. We, the older generations, saw all of this coming a long time ago and tried to provide a few advance notices. Anyone who's ever known young love knows the futility of not believing in the power of love to overcome everything. Honestly, even now, part of the pain I'm feeling about losing my husband is that no matter how much we loved each other, it wasn't enough to conquer some serious problems. I guess I taught the womanchild what I truly believed even if it was a Disney-fied fairy tale. I'm trying to hide the wince that realization brought about, and it's not working out too well.
When we think about the stuff we teach our kids, it's so easy to think just about the good stuff we hope we're teaching -- honor, reliability, truthfulness, endurance, kindness, strength, the importance of a spiritual life, competitiveness and cooperation, thoughtfulness, judgment and an endless list of more good stuff. I know I've also taught tacky, pointless, self-indulgent martyrdom, body and self loathing, despair, panic, over-reaction, and who knows what else. I won't let myself off the hook here. I'm not the parent I wanted to be, but there are no perfect parents. I'm not alone in this boat by a long shot.
My daughter is an adult now in legal terms. I know she still has a lot of growing up to, but she's made some good, strong and mature decisions in the last few days. She decided to end this relationship with a minimum of anger, the beginning of good wishes for him and a set of boundaries about what she will accept as she gets over him. She's moving on campus. She skipped sorority rush to make time for the boyfriend, but now she's accepting invitations from sororities for other "get to know us" events. Other guys are asking her out. (With her looks, that won't be an issue for long.) She's bought a car for herself and insurance.
Heaven help me, I still feel like I have a lot of growing to do as well. (I'm trying to see that as a gift that offers me potential, instead of despairing over how far I have to go with so much less time to get where I'm supposed to be.) I want to still be there to help and guide my daughter when and where I can. I know that now is the time that I have to step back and admit I've done what I could, give myself credit for what I did right, acknowledge my shortcomings, and work for the two of us to have a strong and loving adult relationship. I don't feel like I did my share to do this as a daughter.
I'm determined to do my part as a mother. I can't allow my natural inclinations to guilt and self blame to allow me to be manipulated. My daughter is entitled to her anger at me right now, but I can't let my desire for our relationship to be reconciled allow me to say that I deserve all of this anger. She just has the right to feel it. I have to be strong. I have to discipline my own emotions and reactions and let my behaviors be guided by what the goal of developing and keeping a healthy adult family.
As in so many other areas of my life, it feels like I'm starting out all over again. The conditions and terms are all different than they were just a few months ago. I've always liked beginnings. The possibilities have always excited me. This time it feels different, and it's scary. I'm constantly reminding myself that I'm not at ground zero regardless of what it may look like. Hard earned experience is here with me. God/dess may feel very far away right now, but I'm still reminding myself that often tends to be more perception than reality. Hope is here with me. She's not some glowing, smiling, uplifting angel -- more of a grim and haggard, battle-worn soldier standing by my side, one who is just going to see the mission through with me. I don't know my other assets now. I need to take some time to see them and marshall them together. That's part of getting my problem solving ability back, and I will do it.
Right now I'm having to accept that I don't know how I'm going to get some things done. I just have to continue believing and working on getting them done. The latest steps with C. have helped me feel stronger and more capable. This will continue to grow.