Well, I should say that parenting is hard. (Wouldn’t want to be revealed here as a female chauvinist sow, would I?)
Parenting is the ultimate preparation for sainthood. You are given the care of these precious beings, creatures you love more than anybody else in your life. And then, eventually, if things are adequately healthy, they push you away and leave.
And you (if you are a halfway decent parent) have to stand there and let them do it. Encourage them to do it, even.
That is not as easy as it sounds, which is saying quite a bit because it doesn’t sound easy at all — at least, not to me. In fact, it’s so hard that many people just never do it. It is unfortunate but true that standing in the position of parent to child gives you the ability to raise a person who will never leave you. There are some parents who — knowingly or not — behave as if they believe the whole point of having children is making sure that there will always be somebody there for them, somebody who will never abandon them, and if their kid’s life turns out to be kind of stunted as a result … well, surely you don’t think that’s their fault!
I shouldn’t be so snide but I have encountered enough people who seem to believe that their children exist for parents (as opposed to people existing because they do) that it has become a bit of a pet peeve for me.
But I digress.
I have reached a point in the lives of my children where I should be prepared for them to start slamming doors in my face and telling me, whether bluntly or gently, to back the fuck off. I thought I was prepared for it but events have proved me wrong. I am always very conscious of tomorrow and have always been very much aware that I don’t ever want to damage my long-term relationships with my kids for any form of immediate gratification now. I have been vigilant enough that there have been times when I have drawn boundaries for them, when I have respected privacy rights that had not been asserted, and when I have exerted myself to avoid embarrassing them even if from a certain perspective they didn’t deserve it.
(Humiliation is one of life’s best teaching tools.)
But I am not perfect. It’s hard to watch your younglings start to go through that life stuff, watch them make what you believe to be poor choices, watch them suffer and still keep your mouth shut. When you don’t manage to do that, you find yourself in the unenviable position of having your adored offspring tell you to shut up and go away.
But they’re right to tell you to shut up and go away. Advice is only advice when it is solicited. When it’s not, it’s meddling. Granted, it’s unfortunate when they think they know what you’re going to say or what you’re thinking and they talk long enough for you to know that they have no clue and you’re not allowed to tell them. And yes, it’s hard to watch them stumble and fall and hurt, as much as it was when they were learning to walk. But we let them stumble and fall and hurt, because we can’t learn to walk for them. We can’t protect them from the bumps and the bruises because it’s part and parcel of that whole learning-to-walk thing. And those principles apply whether they are mastering bipedal locomotion or whether they are learning to navigate life’s sharp curves and blind alleys.
I learned my lesson. I will keep my opinions to myself. I understand that I haven’t a particle of a right to force them onto the unwilling. There’s no point in talking to somebody who doesn’t want to know what you have to say and repeatedly stepping on people’s toes is not a good way to improve the prospects for your long-term relationship.
It’s kind of sad — rejection hurts, no matter where it comes from — but the fact is that the ultimate end of parenthood happens in that moment when the door gets closed in your face. Eventually, your precious little being must let you know that their life is their own. They are allowed to refuse you admittance, if they are feeling so inclined. They do not owe us that; we have to earn it.