Saturday, January 26, 2008

leaving on a jet plane

Beloved left before the sun came up,off on a whirlwhind weekend trip to florida to see his daughter. elissa, the apple of his eye, his baby-fox, has decided to abandon her college degree, run away to florida and become a hooter's girl. (im sure she's not the only one with such big dreams.) to say Beloved is bewildered, disappointed, puzzled and hurt is an understatement.

the shoals between 18 and 22 are particularly tricky ones to navigate, i've found. if anyone had told me it was this hard to be the parent of an emerging adult, i'd have had puppies. lots of them.

i don't know why these years are so difficult. i only know that untangling the ties that bind, releasing the cords, and severing the connections are a delicate two-sided dance fraught with landmines of charged and laden emotion and mountains of misunderstanding.

there is no getting it right in these years, i've decided. you've either gotten it right with your kids by this time, or you haven't. the parent's work is mainly done - the question increasingly becomes - does the child rise to the task?

and in my experience, given a good-enough foundation, children mostly do - but not necessarily in ways the parent can predict or expect. this is part of what scares the living daylights out of me - because i don't know which pieces of my children are adult in the sense they can look out for themselves, feed themselves and support themselves, and which pieces aren't.

children mature unevenly. no one flicks the switch on the morning of anyone's 21st birthday, or 18th birthday, and voila - presto, chango - there you have a GrownUp. i began to see evidence of that Adult within each of my children at two. She or He looked back at me the first time i watched each of them willfully disobey. i remember looking into my oldest daughter's eyes when she was around 19 months old, and seeing Someone Else looking back.

i remember i paused. NO, katie said. firmly, emphatically, with a new deliberation and a kind of ownership. you are not the boss of me.

i remember i thought, oh my... this is different. i remember my initial reaction was one of amused respect. make friends with Her now, i remember thinking, cause She'll be back when katie's 13.

it was the first time i saw and heard the woman katie would become, every bit my equal, every bit as real as the Child she still was. that glimpse stayed with me all through her growing up. because i had seen Her so clearly, i was able to tease Her out, speak to Her, encourage Her. that became my goal - to allow that Adult - who was already present in each of my children in some nascent, embryonic form - to step forward bit by bit.

at times it feels like walking on one of those rope bridges strung across some unfathomable chasm.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.


My name is Stacie. said...

Great post! Very insightful. I love the idea of seeing glimpses of the adult child in the young child. Every once in a while I get that glimpse in Levi. It makes me smile too. I wonder what he'll be like as an adult...

I hope your husband's daughter finds her way.

ravensedge said...

My Mom said the hardest years were once my brother and I turned 20. I think because she knew she could do no more than love us and had to just step back and let us go. I think we turned out OK. I hope now I'm laying the foundations so I to can step back and say they're OK.

Anonymous said...

Love this post! I think the age she is at is an age of finding yourself. You spend your childhood being molded by your parents and it's natural to want to break out of that mold. The good news is that if the foundation was laid, a wonderful adult can emerge on the other side. And to allow her to learn her lessons will make her stronger in the end.

Judy Vars said...

Great wisdom, But you have got to admit becoming a hooter's girl sounds like alot of fun, why can't she do both things?