As parents I think we can take responsibility for our childrens' manners; whether they say please and thank you, whether they offer to help when they are over at a friend's house, and somewhat for their dietary inclinations and attitudes towards exercise. But if they struggle emotionally beyond reason, if they have terrors and negativity beyond the ordinary, if they cannot make friends or keep friends or function with any confidence at all in the world, much of that is beyond our parental responsibility even if we want to fix it for them with all of our heart and soul.
Our wanting to "fix" them does not even mean they are necessarily broken. They are who they are, come here as we are to learn lessons, to age gracefully or to die young, to be wildly successful, or sick and addictive, or both, or a little bit of everything. Letting go of our children in healthy ways is no easy business. Because we feel they belong to us in some way, it seems our job to change them, help them, mold them, encourage them, do all that we can to assure that they suffer as little as possible.
But even with all of that, all of our desire and effort and our good intentions, they go their own way, and feel how they feel, and do what they do. Perhaps our real job as parents is not to mold our children as we think they should be, but to unconditionally accept them as they are, and love them for all of their faults and struggles as well as their gifts. Loving is something we can always do, no matter what, even from a distance, even if we are pushed away and treated with hostility. Their problems are not always our problems. Even if they try to put their stuff on us, we do not have to take it on.
Instead of constantly looking for ways to help, improve, suggest, fix, and educate, perhaps we would do better to simply observe our children as they navigate their days and celebrate their journeys; to laugh with them and enjoy their company and be available should they seek our advice. It feels almost unnatural and certainly challenging beyond measure to let them be, let them live, let them struggle, and let them grow up. But that's what it's really all about, and in the end, as parents, that's
where our journey leads us, and where we are all headed whether we like it or not.
I back off and allow my children the space they need to figure out their own lives. I stop running interference and pushing my position. I trust them to know what's best, and am available to be of service in any way should they honestly seek my help.