What’s the point of me?
Remember that feeling when you brought your first child home? No, not the love stuff. I’m talking about the feeling of overwhelming terror at the fact your child’s very survival depended on you. I remember leaving the hospital so afraid that I was responsible for keeping my kid alive that I thought I might shatter at any moment.
Even before birth, we know that our child needs us to survive. Once they arrive, we must feed, clothe, and shelter them, at the very least. It’s on us to make sure their needs are met. Here’s the question, though: Do we want to be doing all that for them when they’re 30 years old? How about at 19 years old? The point of you (of all of us parents with our own kids) is to help your children develop to the point where they can leave you and be successful on their own. In working with college students and families, what I’ve seen with far too many parents is the failure to recognize that this is a process and that it must start well before their child graduates high school. How does this happen? I think it’s tri-fold. One…we keep doing for our children, because we love them and want them to be happy and successful. Two…we keep doing for our children, because it feels good to be needed and to take care of someone we love so deeply. Three…it becomes the easy way out—it’s faster to just do a task ourselves than going through the process of teaching our children how to do for themselves.
It used to drive me crazy that my daughter would call me into her room every night for one…last…thing after she was already in bed. (Am I the only parent who looks forward to that part of the day where there is some relative peace??) Here’s the thing, though. When it hit me that she wasn’t calling out for me as frequently, it sort of broke my heart. It was a new fissure in our connection. The rational part of me appreciated that this was a natural and healthy part of her development, but the mom part of me grieved a little. I get the need to take care of our kids, but we can’t let our genuine love and concern for them blind us to the fact that we need to teach them to take care of themselves. And we can’t wait until they are 18 years old (or beyond!) to start that transition.
We parents need to be awake to recognize the opportunities to teach our children to be self-sufficient. Because again…that’s the point of us. Our job is prepare our kiddos for the day they embark on the adventure of adulthood, no matter how daunting it may seem at times. We look forward to sharing some of the ways we’re doing this in our little family!