In music, a coda is defined as “the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the basic structure.” My last entry, https://myyearonmombbatical.blog/2019/04/25/a-requiem-for-june-cleaver/ was a candid reflection on the generational tensions between mothers and daughters. I was moved by the resonance with my Gen X contemporaries. It felt good to know that I was not alone.
Of course, the posting came with the requisite backlash from my brother. It is his job to rewrite history and cast me as the family villain. In his mind, I am nothing more than an extension of the worst parts of my now deceased father without whom none of us would have a pot to piss in, but my brother always seems to forget that fact. Gotta love family dynamics.
I had a good cry, shook off my brother’s seething condemnation and took a step back to reflect on this necessary bump in the road in the context of my “mom”bbatical, hence this coda. The real benefit of my “mom”bbatical has been the intentionality with which I interact with my own son. Free from the daily back and forth of parent to child, Emmanuel and I choose to interact as people and it is refreshing. I am truly able to experience him as an emerging human being separate from me and I’ve relished in the fact that I really like him a lot.
But, all too often, I think as parents we see our children as extensions of ourselves. We put tremendous pressure on them to validate our emotional needs and when they don’t, we hold that against them. In the worst cases, parents are cruel, vengeful, even envious. It seems oddly natural and crazy at the same time. We expect our children to validate our existence, our worth.
During the conversation that I had with my mother, she spoke about our relationship as if we existed on a level playing field. Yet, I shared with her my perspective that I was the child. It didn’t matter that I was an adult now. The power dynamics at the foundation of our relationship were never equal. They never will be. And that there is the rub. How can we love and be loved and be separate at the same time when one person CHOSE to create the other’s existence? For the parent, the emotional stakes are so much higher and yet, it is the child who ultimately bears the burden, isn’t it?
The gift of having had an unexpected pregnancy is that it forced me to surrender control. Yes, I did have a choice and in full disclosure, I did find myself standing at the door of an abortion clinic before choosing Emmanuel’s life. Or better said, before accepting that I had been chosen for Emmanuel. Yet, it was profoundly humbling to have this unplanned event happen and it forced me to be mindful in my interactions with him, to remember that I was chosen to be the parent. It is not his job to emotionally validate me. I am not entitled to that and if I can’t emotionally validate myself, I’m no good to him anyway.
For as much as the “mom”bbatical has served me, I believe it will do wonders for my kid. He gets to be his own person and I couldn’t be happier about that. Will I still guide him and set high expectations for him? Of course. But, he is free of feeling as though he has an obligation to validate who I am. So, when he tells me he loves me or pulls me in for one of his hugs, it is coming from him, from his soul and from the person that he is becoming.
The journey of parenting is so beautiful, full of challenges and surprises. If we can dare to keep ourselves whole, yet separate from our children, we give them a chance to be who they are and who they are meant to be. More importantly, if we are always mindful of their emotional well-being and our duty to protect it, or at least, to not do it any harm, then we are doing the job for which we have been chosen.