And…hell is other people, so says Sartre.*
The stresses of having children are not only when they’re young and you’re raising them but also as adults when they’ve developed into “other people.” That “other” is often not what we imagined when our new squirming bundle of possibility was initially cradled.
Many people think kids are born as a clean slate. Not true. They’re their own beings right from the start. They are more fluid as children—sure—and our influences do matter. As parents you can encourage or thwart, but you can’t fundamentally change.
My two adult kids are jewels; each unique with gorgeous facets which shine in their own exquisite ways—different than me. They have, do and will put themselves into “settings” I wouldn’t choose. Still lovely, just not a “bracelet” I’d buy.
When your kids are little, they don’t see you as a person in your own right, with fears and feelings; you’re an extension of them. When I work with teenagers, I deal with their parents too. My teen clients have no idea how over-anxious their parents are watching their “babies” roam away from family life into the world, often only seeing them as adults blocking their way. The inverse is true: the parents don’t see teenagers as “real” people either. They’re just kids.
IMHO, the goal of parenting is to make yourself nonessential, but not necessarily unwanted.
Your children are helpless beings at birth. You temporarily hold all the keys and all the power. Your job is to give each key back day by day, age by age until they reclaim their passkey of power.
Support yes; engage with them yes; control no. You must show yourself as a ‘person’ and relinquish ‘parent’ even if they don’t want you to. You’ve got to trust you gave them working, functional keys and then let them use them. By themselves. Without commentary, unless asked. Your time for major influence is over. [See: parenting grown-ups]
In Sartre’s play, No Exit, three dead characters find out that the afterlife is not fire & brimstone, but being locked together in a room for eternity. Once you have kids, there’s no escape from the room you entered when you birthed them, even when they’re grown up. And that’s not bad. It’s just that you don’t get to say anything.
*not to be interpreted that I don’t admire my adult kids or their choices
Fiber art: “Alchemy-Fire” by Aimee Reid-Rice