Brave New World

This post has been tumbling around my head for weeks. There have been fragments of this, bits of that, and I’m not quite sure where it will all go, or what direction it will take. It’s all about the fact that I have two adult sons, and wrapping my head around that. At not yet 40, it’s been quite something to contend with. And watching one of my boys perform at a gig the other night was surreal. After all the gigs I have been to and all the support bands I have seen, to watch my own son open for someone else was an experience that defies words. {But I’ll try 😉 }

I once heard someone say “small children small worries, big children big worries”. And I have to say it’s very true. Putting aside any issues relating to health and well being, which are always a worry, it stands very true.

Personally, the last twenty years as a parent has been a journey in every sense. Rich in new experiences, ever changing challenges, never ending guilt, and a constant aim to do my very best. I have come to believe that they are not my possessions, but rather, I am only here to safely guide them to the point where they can stand alone. I have no desire to have my children tied to my side forever. I want them to fly the nest, metaphorically and literally. I want them all to go and see the world, have adventures, and send me the occasional postcard.

Now that there are a couple of extra adults in the house there is slightly different atmosphere. The energetic noisy chaos of having small kids running around has given way to a calmer, more adult type of scene. There are discussions on philosophy, politics, music, and life in general. {Reading that back sounds so wanky, like I should be wearing a beret and pondering existentialism}. They are very clued in on the things they see. I can {hopefully} rest easy that the hardest part of my job is done. The decisions are theirs now. But when I look around at some of the people we know and interact with, I see very differing schools of thought. Our cultural background has something to do with it, but it’s not the whole thing.

Being close as a family is all good and well, but I have seen adults who refuse to ever live more than a five minute drive from their parents. People who are married with children, yet whose own parents still call the shots. I have to wonder, is that healthy? A normal part of emotional development for teenagers is separating themselves from their parents. Pushing back, rebelling, learning to think for themselves. How can you raise your own children when you still obey mummy and daddy? Does this go some way to explaining why I consider myself the black sheep? I dare say it does.

How healthy is it to never explore what dwells in your own mind? Who really wants to be a carbon copy of their own parents anyway? Why simply take their word for it? I would be horrified if my children accepted everything I say, if they didn’t make up their own mind, question things, experience it for themselves. The old mentality of “it was good enough for my parents so it’s good enough for me” just doesn’t ring true for me. If you spend your whole life in the same circle of people who all think the same, which is whatever their parents thought, how on earth is that a good thing? No new opinions, no intellectual stimulation, nothing ever changing. Then again, having everyone on the same page must make for a very nice Stepford way of life.

I have seen fathers who insist their son play the same sport they did, regardless of what their child wants. Mothers who dress their small daughters just like them. They choose their children’s friends based on who their own friends are, as in, they can only really be friends with people their parents already know. No randoms thank you very much. Watching my son up on stage the other night, I was blown away by the sense that he is not so much “my child” anymore as he is his own man. His confidence and talent were wonderful to witness, and my pride in him had a lot to do with the fact that he has chosen a creative yet challenging path. One that is his own, and owes nothing to his parents. {If it was up to me he’d belt out a face melter on a Les Paul rather than rap his tunes, but hey, c’est la vie}.

As a parent one of the hardest things can be to let go. My sons are eighteen and nineteen. They are free to come and go as they please, and their only responsibilities are the studies which are the passions they themselves have chosen to pursue, and a part time job in order to have some financial independence. I also ask that they keep themselves out of harms way, be nice to their sister, and to put a bucket beside their bed after a big night, and that’s about all. Respect is earned, no matter who they are dealing with. So when it comes to letting go, I don’t think I have ever felt the need to hold the reins. I have no desire to “be in control”. I am actually somewhat relieved that some of the burden of responsibility has passed to them.

At the risk of sounding gaga, there have been moments where I look at them and see the bird who is just about ready to fly the nest. Sure, there’s no hurry on anyone’s part. But mentally they are facing the future and have one eager foot already out the door. And that’s a good thing. I have seen so few people break away from our cultural upbringing, and the ones that have are the people I find most interesting. It’s not a coincidence that the people of a similar background that I have the most time for and want my children to be around are the ones who think outside the square. They have traveled and seen the world and all the different people in it, and know that there is so much more to life than what our parents told us.

So what’s this post about anyway? Is it about breaking out of a mindset that is expected of you? Is it about letting go of your children and encouraging them to be independent adults? Is it about being a parent or is it in fact about becoming your own person?

It’s all of those things.

Like life, it’s tangled, complicated, messy, and there are no neat conclusions.

For now, for me, it feels like being a parent is evolving to something unfamiliar and yet exciting. Next year I will have two sons at university and one starting primary school. I have a daughter on the cusp of being a woman. They all need me in different ways than they used to.

Like Bob Dylan said, “the times they are a-changin’…”.

Leaving you with my tumbled and meandering thoughts,

Ana.

  1. I love this! First of all congratulations on watching your son perform on stage(and he raps! How cool). Second I grew up in a somewhat traditional Irish-Catholic family so I can understand the influence a family’s cultural background can play on a kid’s upbringing. I know mothers are trying to do their best so nothing against another style of parenting but it’s refreshing to read of a parent that isn’t trying to mold their children into what they want or what they themselves wanted to be, y’know that weird vicariously living through the kids…

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    1. Yeah, I really wasn’t trying to put anyone down, but rather just question what I’ve seen. Separation is crucial to healthy development, as well as support and closeness.

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      1. Well you def did not come across as putting anyone down and I think a lot of people can relate to what you wrote as people who were children in that situation. Your kids will probably be healthier, more successful and hopeuflly happier b/c of the way you’re doing it. I shouldn’t even say anything because I’m not a parent but this makes a lot of sense to me just based off my childhood experiences.

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        1. Of course you’re allowed to have an opinion. Common sense is common sense after all.

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          1. Please don’t think me a moron but I am confused. OHHH b/c I said I’m not a parent so what do I know? Yes, I can have an opinion it’s just coming from no experience lol.

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  2. I really love the way you parent, and hope that as my kids grow they do as yours have done, question everything, develop their own opinions but also come back to me. It’s a hard gig this parenting one, letting go emotionally must be hard, especially as they grow. Love the bucket by bed thing!!

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    1. Thanks Em, and it is hard and I also hope I’m doing what’s going to be best for them. I guess I think they’re pretty cool people and if they’re happy then so am I.

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