It has been a whirlwind of a summer. I spent 11 weeks doing an intensive chaplaincy training program at a hospital while my son, recent college graduate, found employment, moved, and settled into his new life. I had little time to contemplate the implications of his new independence, and little time to feel the feelings that go with it. But my intensive unit is done and my boy has settled in and now I find myself facing the undeniable reality that my job as mom has nearly come to an end.
Before you tell me that the job never ends, let me say how accomplished I feel to have gotten to this point with my son. It is our job as parents, as best as we are able, to get our children to a place of full independence and functioning. It is our job as parents to help our children to see their purpose in the larger world, a purpose that brings joy, contentment, and responsibility. And so I celebrate my son not needing me very much any longer. That is what I was supposed to do – ween him physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am supposed to move him from a place of needing me in his life to (hopefully) wanting me in his life. While he still calls with questions about things such as benefits or banking, the reality is he can reach out to a number of folks to get those answers too.
I celebrate his adulthood. And I grieve it just a little too. To deny that grief might mean I’m unhealthily holding on in a way that prohibits his full independence. I grieve openly and honestly because it is difficult to go from being the center of one’s universe to being just like everyone else, even when we are given years to accept it. And periodically I feel myself trying to be that center again. I guess that is natural. But when I feel myself wanting to be needed by him, I recognize that is more for my benefit and to his detriment.
I think the best thing I have done as a parent is to never stop learning how to be a better parent. I listen to my husband as he shares his observations. I listen to those who know me and my kids well. And most importantly, I ask my kids questions and listen to what they have to say. I know there is still learning I have to do as I figure out the new normal for my adult son and me. And no matter how much I have screwed up, I take comfort in remembering that parenting is about the cumulative effect. We always have the opportunity to improve the quality of a relationship. We make mistakes as parents. How could we not? But if we don’t forgive ourselves for the mistakes made, we can’t be our best selves in the here and now. I look at my grown son, and I see how we have all grown to get to this place in which we find ourselves.