Monday, November 19, 2012

When they're all grown up.

I was an unwed mother forty-two years ago. I raised a healthy, productive, sensitive, communicative, successful son. He is married now with his own home and is happy. What else could a parent want for her child? I did it. I had help, but I did it alone. I made lots of mistakes and choices that hindsight would change. All in all, though, I am proud of my son and of what I accomplished.

I feel twinges of guilt now and again when I remember some of the choices I made while raising him. But, what parent doesn't have that? What conscious parent doesn't? I had my son when I was twenty years old. I was the oldest of twelve, and it seemed I was a parent all of my life. The only difference in raising a son of my own was that all the responsibility was mine, and mine alone. That reality was very scary. But when I needed help I sought it out. I joined parenting groups, got therapy, read books and asked anyone who seemed more knowledgeable than I for information, advice or assistance. I knew I couldn't raise him all alone, because without help, that job would have been too hard.

My parents raised me to be independent, so I raised my son to be the same way. I see some parents of adult children who raise theirs to be dependent on them, seemingly for the rest of their lives. Why would anyone want their child to remain dependent on them into adulthood? The only answer I can surmise is those parents cannot find lives of their own once their child is grown up. Or, the guilt they feel about choices they made cause them to try to make up for them to that child forever; as if it is even possible to make up for past decisions.

Children are supposed to "leave the nest". Parents are suppose to move onto something else in their lives. So, when I see a person whose child is in constant need of financial and other support as an adult (as a lifestyle), I feel sorrier for that parent who can't let go. Not letting go of a "baby bird" does both parent and child an injustice. The child never gets to make mistakes, and thereby never learns its own lessons or is allowed to grow. Without the ability to learn on its own, the child become stunted in some way, unable to think for itself or make decisions. How is allowing a child to remain stunted a good parenting decision?

I see this behavior in loved ones close to me. Sometimes those families appear closer, emotionally and psychologically, than my son and I. This appearance causes me to doubt my decisions to raise an independent being. I am sometimes made to feel selfish for not giving up my entire life for my child, even after they are grown up. I questioned this logic more than once, because when one takes a risk, one is never sure the decisions they make are correct. But, I also check in with my son regularly to make sure "we are good". He insists we are, and that has to be enough. My son loves me. What else do I need to know? He has a life. He has a good life. That's a good thing. I also have a life. I also have a good life. I should be able to live my life without guilt, right?

When I feel guilty now, it's those others around me who cannot move forward with a life of their own who try to make me feel bad for having one and being happy. I admit I am still a bit vulnerable to this manipulation. But, I have no control over their choices. I do, however, have control over how I respond to them. I am happy and my son is happy. That is the greatest wish of any parent: single or married. I succeeded in raising my son. I pat myself on the back and live my life. I am proud of what I accomplished and proud of him. Now, I just have to reread this article and take it to heart. Because I was made to feel badly again recently, and I need to remind myself that I am okay.