Monday, September 22, 2008

Fitting into a new suit

I probably haven't mentioned lately that E is home.  She has unpacked, settled in and even--magically!--sifted through the closet in her bedroom where she's had her unneeded life stored for the last several years while she lived across the state and across the Rocky Mountains.  And I have to say, it's been a joy having her home.  I was never one for helping my kids move out the day they turn 18, then repainting and using their bedrooms for something else.  The older my kids get the more I enjoy them. And rightly so.

However, this adult, college-graduated daughter back in our home has brought some challenges, for me especially.  Actually, they're the same challenges I noticed with SK after just one year of being away at college.  See, these kids walk back into my house and before I've even finished hugging them, I start being the mom.  They've lived independently for a year--or four--but somehow, I can't keep from telling them to take their dishes to the kitchen, or ask when why their hair looks so messy, or if they're really going to wear that.  It's a knee-jerk reaction built from twenty-three+ years of taking care of their needs--nursing their hurts, being their mom.  And, though they're mostly good sports about it, it grates on them after a while.

For example, E and I were running errands the other day, with the dogs in the car with us.  E had rolled down the windows for them, and Jamaica, as usual, was sticking her head out.  Well, from my point of view, she had more than half her body out the window.  So I said, perhaps a little sharply, "Roll up that window a little. I never have it down all the way." 
We then had a bit of a disagreement about how far up I meant, and whether Jamaica would actually fall from the car.  I'm always cautious, I know that.  But I like it so she can just barely squeeze her head out the top.  It just seems safer.
"Listen, Mom," E finally said, not annoyed yet but on the way to it, "When you drive, you can do it your way, and when I drive, I'll do it mine."

And I realized those words had far bigger import than about a rolled down window. She's used to making decisions about everything from windows to finances to what walking by faith means in her lived-out life.  And far be it for me to treat her like she's my little girl any longer. Becoming an adult is easier for her than it is for me.  Even when she's in my house, I have to remember that.  What she chooses to reveal, to discuss with us (and we're actually lucky because our kids love talking over their lives with us) it's up to them.  The more I push, the more they'll back away.  I know this--I did it myself with my own mother who was still telling me how to do things when I was in my forties (she only doesn't now because she can't remember how). As recently as half-a-dozen years ago she'd sometimes brush her hand across my face to try to wipe what she thought was too much blush from my cheeks or walk into my bedroom while I was changing. "Mom," I'd say. "What?  I'm your mother!"  And I'd flinch from her touch. I remember how that felt, take it as a warning.

It's a stretching thing, this letting go stuff, like trying to fit into a suit that's a little too small or constricting. I'm just not comfortable yet.  But that old larger suit--of being Mommy--has ragged edges, maybe even pins sticking out that will wound us. If I continue to treat them like they're my children, I'm liable to hurt all of us badly.  After all, they never were, my children, that is. Not really. They're His.  Besides, I always said that I wasn't raising children, I was raising adults.  And guess what?  They are, all three of them.  And good ones.

Now it's time for me to grow up.

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