Being a parent is always a precious gift but the truly hard part is when you cannot put a bandaid on it any more or ‘kiss it better.’
The first 15 years are a doddle, for some the first 12, but once your kids are adults all you can do is love them as they suffer; wish you could take away their pain; wish you could help them when often as not you cannot even comfort them; wish that it was easier for them and for you.
Mostly they make their way through things, the worst of things, and so do parents. It is hard, as the hands-on parents we have been for the past forty years, in ways those before were not, to let go. But, just as we had to make our way as adults, so do they.
We probably did it sooner, or were pushed out of the ‘next’ sooner, because in generations past it was a given that your child reached adulthood – often as young as 13 – and went to work and that was your job done.
And for the poor, often the expectation was that they then looked after you. That changed in the Sixties, at least in Australia, as times changed and mostly for the good, although in that swing of life, perhaps we went too far to the other side of what our parents and grandparents had done and been.
We wanted to have a relationship with our children – some even wanted to be friends, although I could never see how a parent and a child could really be friends because the relationship dynamic, by its nature, was never and would never be that of peers. A parent may have a deeply loving and liking relationship with a child which entails a deep level of friendship, but it is not a friendship in any general sense.
The mother and father always carry with them far more than each individual man or woman.
And the older they get, the harder it gets. At deep, powerful emotional levels, they remain your child, even as they age, wrinkle and turn grey. A mother is always a mother and a father is always a father and you may have a friendly relationship but a parent will always have far more power within the relationship, for good or ill, or good and ill, and a greater capacity to hurt a child than vice-versa.
And that is because being a mother or a father is about more than the mortal; it is archetypal and every mum and every dad, represents to every child, that powerfully symbolic and ancient energy which has been with us throughout history in most cultures.
Your relationship changes as it must. Your kids might even call you by your name, and most parents don’t mind. But even as they utter your Christian name in that familiar and familial way, they will always be your child and you will always be their mother or father.
Even if you are 100 and your child is 88 as it would be for me and my firstborn, should I reach a century, you will feel their pain, ache with their sorrow, grieve for their suffering and always wish you could make it better.
More than anything you just want to comfort them. It is not that you feel responsible anymore because you are not, but you just want to hold them secure in your deep and powerful love.
But often you cannot. And then, all you can do is stand to the side loving them and offering yourself, if and when they want or need you. Just as they will have to do for and with their children.
Whether one holds to a religion or not, what you spend a great deal of time doing as the parent of adult children is ‘praying’ for them. For Wishing is just another word for Praying with no religious connotations, but prayer it is.
Those thoughts, words, often uttered as you talk to yourself about them, weep for them, murmur to yourself about them, about what is hurting them, tormenting them, challenging them, are wishes/prayers for their comfort.
I like to think that they reach them, those thoughts of caring and that waking in the middle of the night, troubled for them and about them, that visualizing love and light streaming from your heart to theirs, arrives where intended. And does comfort and support even if they never become consciously aware of what they are receiving.
My comfort was in telling myself that the most important work had been done before they were twelve and that in their finding their way through pain themselves was what would make them strong and make them good parents and strong people of conscience and integrity.
And they are, but life is unpredictable, often cruel, rarely fair and even as your children grow into wonderful people, they will face challenges, pain, suffering and even torment. It is just the way this world is.
And ultimately, all you can do is trust that the best that you did, for all parents do the best that they can even if their efforts appear wanting to others, is enough and that the love you have for them has been seeded far into the very depths of their being and they know, or can remember, that you will always be there for them, no matter what!
For our children are the songs our Soul has sung into this world and their music is the joy of our hearts, wherever they may be, wherever we may be, whatever life might bring.
Learning that as adults they must make their own way and you have nothing left to offer but Love is the hardest thing any parent will ever do.