An older and much wiser friend of mine said to me recently something I found very interesting. She commented on how those of us in the baby boomer generation have a hard time letting our children separate from us and live their own lives. She said she noticed how many adults were depending on their children to fulfill their lives and their hearts and not focusing on their own lives for this type of happiness. Her comments made me reflect on my own childhood and life now as a parent and a single person.
She described how her son had called her late one night, apologizing for the late hour of the returned call and she told him to not worry about it and to go and be with his wife. She really meant this statement and was not saying it for any other reason.
I thought about this for a long time and am still thinking about this as I wonder why this is true. In my childhood our parents were the focus of everything while the kids were simply kids. It would never have occurred to us to demand equal time or to want our parents to be more like us. We had no clue what their lives were like when we were out of the picture nor did we spend much time thinking about it. We didn’t want to know.
I remember thinking at one point when I was in my early 20’s wishing my father would just leave me alone as his emotional needs seemed very difficult to handle. I never wondered what he did in his spare time nor did I want to talk with him very often about much. I wanted to focus on my own life and not have to worry about him.
I have noticed in my group of single friends that we often are commenting on the state of our relationships with our kids. We wonder why they haven’t called us or why we don’t see more of them. Some of us are angry that our kids don’t seem interested in our lives or that they are not as dependant on us as we feel we are on them. This is where the term “co-dependency “comes from and I don’t like to look at its origin.
I am not sure why our generation is so filled with the pain of abandonment but we are. If we are in a relationship, we fear its end though it may be surviving perfectly well. If we are alone most of us hope to find a significant other believing that if we do we will have no pain.
The other night I was at dinner with a group of friends and was sitting next to a really interesting man who I admire a lot. He shared with me his own fear of ending relationships as he had felt so much pain from this in the past. He was saying that though he loves the woman he is with there are some problems with the relationship. I guess he was afraid of addressing the problems as he feared losing the relationship. I have great empathy for him as I know there are many people out there in the world like him.
The kid’s thing is interesting as it is very generational. Our parents may have been absent parents, preferring to take care of their own lives and relationships and work, while ours is focused on clinging to whatever shred of family we believe we have. Obviously the behavior our parents adhered to didn’t really work for us and enable us to become whole and separate beings. That makes me wonder what style of parenting our kids will adopt after dealing with our co-dependency.
I know I have been guilty of this and have had many moments where I felt angry or abandoned by family, yet if I rationally and compassionately think of what a good parent is I know this is an issue I must work to resolve.
Once we raise our kids we should let them fly away from the nest and not keep looking for a safe return. The searching for connection is a natural force but the element of desperation that comes with it in our generation is not healthy.
Maybe our generation doesn’t feel safe or loved or O K. on our own but depending on our kids to make our own lives all right isn’t good.
The holiday season is a tricky time as many of us revert to bad behavior with our family. We try to be compassionate and forgiving and not needy but those old tapes keep on playing. We think about how Christmas will play out, who is getting more of our children’s’ time, and how we are going to deal with the aloneness of it all.
This year I have had an experiment with myself on how to handle the holiday season. I have scheduled events with other single or childless friends and really enjoyed myself. It is almost sacrilegious behavior to a WASP. Not having a family Thanksgiving meal? Not having the traditional Christmas Eve dinner? Christmas Day without a tree and all the tinsel? Shocking but really fun.
I highly recommend it to all who wonder what they are missing out on when the kids chose to go elsewhere as they should. It is interesting how easy it is to change what you think is tradition and do things that are fun for you. Actually it is much less stressful than you think.