Thursday, February 18, 2010

Parental Pride

My son had a dream when he left home at the age of 21 and went to LA to live. He dreamed of breaking into the music industry and making his own record label. He is now 24 1/2 and the past three years or so have helped him grow up and change in countless ways. Every new step he has taken, and every new direction he has felt led to follow, have taught me to let go as a parent, and come to terms with the constantly changing dynamics of our relationship as parent/child.

I've thought over and over through the years, how ill-prepared we are as new parents, and I often feel that way looking at those younger than I, struggling with parenting issues even now. But I naively imagined all that awkward uncertainty would finally end with a child leaving the nest and flying off to live his own life apart from the Mama Bird. I thought I'd be able to let go and allow my fledgling the space to make his own mistakes and learn from them, without my needing to add my own two cents' worth. I imagined an easy transition from active and involved mom, to one who could step back and give her child the space and respect he deserved upon moving out and establishing his independence.

I think I've achieved this imagined end, ultimately. My son is sensible (most times) and dependable, hard-working like his folks and grandfolks on both sides of his family tree, and has earned my respect as an independent young person. But each step of his growth (and mine) has been painful for me, full of highs and lows, and each step has come as a big surprise. There hasn't been an easy transition EVER; it's all been difficult, full of confusion and shock, frequently leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Initially, having him leave and establish his own financial independence was an immense relief. I loved the silence in the house during the day; not having to listen to his latest favorite song played over and over (with his CD player set to "repeat") behind his closed door till I went crazy and yelled for him to change it. I admit I missed having someone appreciative to cook for, and I really missed our conversations, but I continued to worry about him and wonder about how things were going for him 24/7. He was so far away, and there was no easy way to check on him, to relieve my imagined 'worst case scenarios.'

I didn't have empty nest syndrome (which is where the mama can't function from the loneliness of having her precious child no longer at home), but I did have a big hole in the middle of my Life Purpose suddenly. I didn't know how to fill that hole with something else. It took a good year to allow the rest of my life to stretch and refit into normalcy again.

I have learned to let go of the ownership I felt for the choices he makes; it is his life, and a reflection of his choices. I'm finally comfortable with that. His choices continue to surprise me, perplex me, concern me and amaze me. But they are his, and he has every right to them, of course.

My most recent area of struggle has been with his making major level choices without consulting us at all. He talks things over with his good friends he's made, and we're not involved in the process one little bit. We get wind of the new direction he's headed after he's already packed his bag and left for the station! This is normal, and understandable...I'm just not used to it yet! So being the parent of an adult child is as much of a learning experience in my fifties as it was in my twenties through forties!

The latest new development in the unfolding drama of my son's life has pleased me to no end: he's taking classes at a nearby community college in LA!! He has a new dream and in order to pursue it, he is extending his education. Today I had the rare treat of hearing all about the registration, classes, teachers, classmates and homework. He's having a ball, and has discovered the joy of studying something he's actually interested in and eager to learn about. Today I'm bathed in Parental Pride, and thankful I had absolutely nothing to do with his decision to do this. It's all his, and all the sweeter because of it.