Monday, June 7, 2010

The dividing line

I'm typing this on Beve's archaic powerbook.  The one that came via UPS when we ordered SK's for her birthday her senior year in high school.  Ordered one, got two.  And when we called and emailed the good folks at Apple, they didn't even register that a second had been sent.  Finally they just said, "Our bad," and it's lived in our house ever since.  And you know, this thing has worked like a charm all that time.  The same cannot be said for my PC--or make that plural.  I think I've gone I'm on my third in that time.  There was the widescreen heavy-duty model, the one a dog stepped on while we were away for a weekend, and the one I currently use.  I like it well enough, but my second power cord seems to have shorted out, so I'm stuck without power now.  Not exactly conducive to doing business, writing or whatever else I might be interested in doing.  Hence, I'm using this old dinasaur of a powerbook that lives on the bottom shelf of Beve's nightstand, and happy it's available.  At least when he's not home.

But that isn't really what I intended to write about today (as is often the case!).

Anyway, I've been thinking lately about the one of the most difficult parts parents have in dealing with their adult children, which ours are now.  For the longest time--all of their lives, actually--my children's lives were my concern. More than my concern, actually.  It was like, for all intents and purposes, they belonged to me, lock, stock and barrel.  Sure, I knew they were/are God's, and are their own persons, but they were also mine.  And, as such, everything about them concerned me.  In fact, their concerns were so much my concerns that I was often hard pressed to think of myself as separate from them.  If someone asked me how I was doing, more often than not, my well-being was fundamentally tied to how my children were doing.  And this started from the instant I conceived them.  My Christmas letters, my emails, my prayer requests, my very reason for being were about them. And I would guess that every parent out there, at least every mother, would instantly 'get' what I mean when i say this.

 Now I realize that this isn't really the case.  In fact I remember the times, particularly when they were very small, when I desperately wanted to be more than simply their mother, wanted my conversation to be about more than diapers and babies.  I knew there was more to me and more to life, and was anxious for the kind of adult conversation that allowed me not to forget that I was a mother but to at least explore the parts of me that were also a thinker, a reader, a theologian.  I remember being bored silly at mother/baby groups when all the women seemed to care about were creating craft projects, curtains, nursery ideas and recipes.  I even actually did those crafts, sewed curtains, was known to cook now and then, but still didn't want to talk about them.

But I was also, always about my children.  First, last and always.  My mental, emotional and even spiritual health has been tied by a cord to them.  I don't ask that this is so, it just is.  They haven't dwelt within my body in over two decades but they are still that close to my beating heart.  And I have a hunch that even if I hadn't borne these children, this would be the case.  It doesn't matter to mothers how their children come to them--whether by their own blood or someone else's--once theirs, that's it.  They stick.  Like glue.

So, when my children are hurting, I am hurting.  I've said this before.  When something affects them, if affects me.  The dividing line between us is feather-weight.  An invisible thread.  In fact, I can only see it by faith.  By surrendered faith.  By a laying-them-on-the-altar surrender, which Abraham did with Isaac so that I could learn (and relearn and relearn) what it looks like.  Surrendering them to God, trusting Him with their lives.  No matter what.

But here's the thing:  that dividing line that I only see by faith?  To my adult children, it's as visible as a fence.  Large and clear and completely separating them from me.  From Beve and me.  Their lives are their own.  They have perhaps a conceptual idea of what I might mean when I say these things, when I say their lives are tied to me by a thread--or is it a rope?--, but they don't really get it.  They don't feel it.  They don't get how much I feel what they feel, how everything that touches them also touches me.  See, If you ask a young adult about his/her life, you wouldn't expect them to say much about their parents unless something catastrophic was going on.  You'd find it odd if you did. Really odd.

So there we stand: us (because Beve agreed wholeheartedly with this assessment of our current situation with offspring) still feeling deeply, firmly connected to these three young adults, and them mostly out of the nest, mostly independent and making their own choices, for better or worse.  Don't get me wrong, our kids respect us greatly, show us that in ways that make me tear up, actually.  But they're their own people now, they aren't mine any longer.

Well, not that they ever really were.  And even though I knew it, I didn't really know it.  I guess I'm just a very slow learner.  But then again, I remember my grandmother's tears as she looked at my father lying in a casket, as she touched his face and called him, "My darling."  He was 66 years old then and she was in her eighties.  So I'm guessing this dividing line that my adult children see so clearly will never really be visible to me.

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