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Letting Go Of Our Teenagers or Getting Ready For An Emptinest

So, I have come to an interesting conclusion about parenthood. When we give birth to our child…even if not right away, we at some point feel like this child will love us forever…unconditionally. Later we find out that although they will love us forever…inevitably we will fall from grace… or when ‘life happens’ they will decide that we do not deserve their unconditional love. Whether we hand them a reason on a silver platter or whether we do everything we can to never give them a reason…they will find one. And of course as parents, we think the world revolves around us, and so we will take it personally when our children begin to distance themselves from us. We will think that they uncovered the truth about us. That in some way we accepted a certain amount of mediocrity in our lives and they have found us out. We will blame ourselves. And if we handed them a reason on a silver platter….ie: divorced their mother or take them across 5 states to move in with a soul mate…they would resent us even more. And even if we didn’t give them a tangible reason the law of gravity would still pull them away from us…perhaps it would be more gradual of a distancing, but let’s face it…by the time a teenager is about 15…they have subconsciously started pulling away from their parents.

This is their way of declaring their Independence…this is their way of showing their parents that they are old enough to have their own opinions…and most of the time it’s an opinion that is polar opposite from their parents…because they can. Of course they will still love their parents, but they are struggling to be set free…they are slowly pulling away so that by the time they are out of high school everyone will be ready for them to fly off to College…as parents we are always in the hopes that they will come back…to visit. We look to them to acknowledge us for all the hard work, all the sacrifices and compromises we made along the way…..we seek forgiveness from our children especially when we cannot forgive ourselves. We try to be the best parents we can be.

After 18 years or so, our teenagers move out and start their own lives. We hope that we have given them a strong foundation. We hope we have taught them about morality, integrity, honesty, safety, patience, common sense, what it means to have strength of character and strong convictions, to love and respect themselves and treat their own bodies like a temple…suddenly we realize that there are so many other things we never thought of telling them. We suddenly feel an intense sense of short comings…failure, like we should have done more, we could have done more, we would have done more if only. It seems that we are conditioned to feel like we have fallen short of being ‘good parents’. We are determined not to repeat the errors our own parents made, but it is inevitable that our children in the end will feel the same way we felt about our parents. I do not think this is a bad thing, it is what it is. Even when we try to do everything for our children that our parents did not do for us…in the end they will still grow up and move out. They will have some resentment, disappointment and even anger against their parents. Of course they will still love us, but they will be even more determined to prove that they are nothing like us. That they will succeed in a way they are convinced we did not. They will seek out to prove us wrong. And of course there will be long stretches of time when they will not call or write, or in the age of modern technology, they will not IM or text. They will be too busy trying to get their own lives going…trying to prove to the world that they are nothing like their parents…that they are their own person. I do not say these things in sadness, but in resignation that as parents we do the best we can. Sometimes it is enough and alot of time it falls short.

Parenthood does not come with a manual…you do not have to have a license or a degree to make a baby. No psychological testing is necessary and no parenting classes required. I have heard all my life from my own parents, ” We do the best we can with what we know”…That is what my parents always told me instead of saying the one thing I wanted to hear …instead of admitting a poor choice was made…there were two words that I would have rather heard then all the excuses in the world…I’m sorry. It’s amazing how hard those words are for parents to say…and how much they mean to a child. Even if the ‘sorry’ is not acknowledged right away it goes a long way in the end. It makes the child realize their parents are human, and that they will make mistakes and they will not always demonstrate the best example.

We as parents have to accept that our children are human and have the right to their own opinions, reactions and beliefs …We have to accept that our harshest critics will be our children…and we have to acknowledge that our children are products of so much more then just their parents. I have come to accept that I do not have that much effect on my children. All I can hope is that the foundation I set for them will prepare them for real life. Life away from the safety of home. I will have to start accepting the fact that they will inevitably leave home and I will be happy for them. I will feel the empy nest syndrome but I know that they will be in good hands, because they each have a strong head on their shoulders and they will be ready to prove to the world that they deserve to be here. I know that throughout all the chaos of their upbringing the one thing they know is they are loved unconditionally.

By Edwina Barzaghi

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