Late-Stage Parenting Issues

I am now within about a half-year of my 75th birthday.  By any measure, that falls into elderly.  If I appeared in the newspaper for some reason, they would say elderly.  I don’t overthink about my age because I am reasonably healthy, happy, and still able to live my life as I wish; I am SO aware of how lucky I am on all those counts.  But I have reached a stage I call “recall and review.”  This must be part of the natural aging process.  In looking back on my life from beginning to the present I am satisfied almost 100% with what I see, goofs and triumphs and all that falls in between.

But I have bumped up hard against a genuine and painful regret: parenting.  I wish I was a different and better parent to my children, for I don’t believe they know, or have ever known, how passionately I have always loved them.

In my own one-child family I fought for independence and won, and did not miss what I did not know, which was an openly physically nurturing environment. In college in the early ’60’s I studied child development and education and absorbed what was current, which I recall as this, “Never do for a child what he can do for himself.”  I can’t cite that expert by name, but Maria Montessori is credited with a similar statement: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  These felt right to me and so began my own parenting style long before I was an actual parent; I honed it in my classroom for a few years.

Parenting style.  My goal was to raise kids who felt capable and respected and listened to, independent thinkers and doers and good decision makers, good citizens and givers of care and concern for others; I thought that somehow along with that they would recognize the deep love from which all the expectations came.

Now I think that’s not how it works, that children need physical feel-able expressions of love that will lodge themselves in their memories forever, and serve them well.  I regret that I did not and do not express the love that I feel as well as I should.  I wish I had hugged them and kissed them and cuddled and coddled them until they begged me to stop, and more.  Instead, I think I just pushed them out of the nest and expected them to fly.

Happily, as adults they have become the fine people I hoped for.  And, almost unbelievably, they nurture their own children so beautifully it is an absolute privilege to observe them parent.  I credit them for overcoming what they may have lacked in expressed love growing up, and also for having the good sense to choose exceptionally wonderful partners.  I suppose my “in-law” children do not know the depth of my love for them either, but it is deep and wide as well.

So I have the capably independent adult children I hoped for, and in addition to loving them, I respect them very much.  I respect their busy lives, their jobs, all the demands on their time.  I respect them so much I am hesitant to ask them for anything for fear of interfering, over-demanding, over-stepping. Sometimes many weeks fly by without contact, but I can’t ask to see them though I yearn to; I must wait for an invitation.  They do not restrict me, I do.  I expect they would be appreciative if I just spoke up, but I may be beyond changing.  I may just be too elderly now.

BTW, I have written this down mainly for clarity for myself, nothing more.






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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2013 at 3:46 pm and is filed under Things to Think About. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Late-Stage Parenting Issues”

  1. I, Rodius on July 12th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I was speaking just yesterday about how much my perspective has changed from the child’s to the parent’s, and how often I say things to my child that drove me crazy when I was a kid, like “You have to go to bed because I’m tired. Knees heal; jeans don’t.” and many others. My kid’s only 5, and I already wish I had been and am now a different and better parent to him. It’s probably a near-universal parental feeling.

    You were a fine mother, and the more I saw of the world, the more I realized that. You achieved your goal and more. I do try to give my child more physical affection than I received, but I knew you were proud of me, and you did teach me to do and think for myself. Thank you for that.

    Respecting our busy lives, jobs, and demands on our time does not have to equal hesitating to ask for anything. I feel awkward talking on the phone, so I don’t choose to do it very often, and I rationalize my failure to do it by saying, “She doesn’t contact me very often, either.” If you want to talk, you can call. If you want to see us, you can invite us to your house, or ask when would be a good time to come to ours. It wouldn’t be an imposition to put it out there. The imposition would be to demand it, or to lay down guilt trips for not always saying yes, or to show up unannounced or uninvited.

    I live my life online partly because I love the Facebook likes and comments, the blog comments. I also partly live my life online so that my son’s extended family, even if they don’t see him every day, will feel like they know him well and can keep up with what he’s like and what he’s doing. You know because we’ve talked before how much I want him to grow up connected to that extended family as much as possible.

    We live much closer to my brother’s family than we do to you and Dad, but we see them not very much more often than we see you because it’s easy to get caught up in the daily details. A prompt to lift our heads from our routine and get together and catch up is always welcome.

    I love you, Mom!

  2. A Ghost on July 17th, 2013 at 7:11 am

    For whatever it’s worth, the past couple of months since I saw you both last have been some of the most challenging I have ever faced. Working 12-16 hour days, sleeping less than any human should, I am admittedly a ghost who appears to loved ones in flashes and at the strangest hours. You can say something here about having one’s priorities in order (easier said than done), but the simple fact is that my life’s circumstances are what they are at this specific instance in time, and there’s no way around — only a way to push through. So, I push, push, push, never forgetting those I love and always aware that none get enough of my attention and time. I will rejoin the world of the living before long, I hope. In the meantime, please be patient, understanding, and forgiving, and don’t wait for my call to connect with the rest of the Down South Crew. All here are always thrilled to hear from you and to see you; none more so than your grandchildren who love as much as anything to text chat with their iPhone Grandma.