What shall I talk to you about today? I did some research last night about silver, the general information about the metal, its history in jewelry... all that. I did not do the writing yet, however, so I am wondering what all you would like to hear about.
Many of you may know that I am a mom. My son, Nicholas, is 19 years old. I think there is a reason we use that expression... 'years old'. Somehow, when as they grow, kids seem to think that they are always old enough to know everything about... well, everything. They argue and fight, carry on about the rules and how those rules should not apply to them, how, as a parent who is sooooo old and out of touch, you do not have the right to make those rules. And it seems to get worse as they reach the 18 year old, I'm an adult now, stage.
Now, my son is going to graduate this week. On Thursday, in fact. He has worked hard in some areas and less hard in others, but overall he has put in the work he needed to in order to reach this point. He will walk across the stage and receive his diploma as well as his certification papers for basic carpentry. He is, for the most part, well on his way to the adult that he will hopefully become. I have done my job... I have!
But see, the thing is that being a parent is more than a job. You give up parts of yourself. The more you focus on the 'work' of raising a decent, well adjusted, and functional young person, the more of yourself you loose. And it is an odd transition. You are pregnant... or helping your child's mom through her pregnancy... and you give up your body. That does not last, you are told, but the truth is that in some ways your body is never really the same anymore. There are changes that take place, such as stretch marks, breast variations and other less mentionable things that will never be what they were before hand. But still, your body becomes a single entity again once the ordeal of birth takes place and your beautiful child is born.
Baby hood is the stage when you are so relied upon that your child will not survive without you. That is a wonderful time but also the very beginning of the struggle to both be attached and a part of their lives but also to break away from the label. 'You are more than a mom," folks will tell you, but you can not even imagine that. You have to be there, if you are not there the world will end, you just know it. And at the same time you wonder if you will even be able to just take a shower, or have lunch, or take a phone call. You have moments when you are in the middle of a crowded room and think to yourself, "do they even see me at all?" as the crowd gathers around the baby and you kind of disappear. But, like the pregnancy, this time does not last. It passes, in some ways, all too soon. Your child can sit up, hold their own bottle and they begin to walk and perhaps even talk a bit.
You think to yourself, great, I will have more time for me, but that is not really what happens. If you are a working parent, you feel guilty about the time you are away from your kids and you do everything you can, no matter how counter-intuitive it may be, to make it up to your child. You spend every moment with them, forgoing your friends, your self care, your own needs. They are growing so fast in these years. They are learning to paint and color, learning to build block upon block, learning about dinosaurs and animals. They, he, she, this child that is yours, is a learning machine that just will not stop with questions and curiosities and it is incumbent upon you to answer those questions and fill those curiosities with all the possibilities there are.
And you do it. And along the way, you watch as they become more independent while you yourself loose more of yours. I mean, how many friends at work want to hear about your ideas regarding Kafka or your opinion about the latest scientific finding? Bring out the baby/kid picks! Share who you are getting baby sitting services from. Lets converse about the way to get picky kids to eat and how to maintain a bedtime routine. Science? Fashion? Really?? Even your outside friends, if you have managed to carve out a bit of time to keep them tell you all you do is talk about your kids as they chat about the latest lipstick colors and how they are planning to go to Antigua or Cabo or some other beachy, skinny, show obscene amounts of skin place. And its funny, cause the response you hear inside your hear, even if it never crosses your lips is, "Don't you have more important things to worry about? You need to cover up and have a kid!"
Then, they, the tiny persons we have molded so carefully into the basic start of the people we want them to be, go to school. They are taken from you in a rather sick and disturbing way. In a system that seems to be of the mindset of the Borg from Star Trek, our kids, our precious angels that we have raised for 5 years to be moral, sweet, kind, helpful people are expected to conform to the standards of a system that, as often as not, is inconsistent with the social morays we subscribe to. Now, I know what you are thinking. Kids go to school to learn, they do not get morals and ethics from school. That is the problem with kids today! Parents don't bother to teach their kids right from wrong. Uhm... WRONG!
Sorry, but whether you see it or not, they learn a large proportion of the social morality that they will carry with them throughout their lives from school. It is not in the classes or the lessons. It is on the playground and in the way they see teachers preferring one kid over another. It is in the way they are expected to sit in seats and do what they are told no matter whether they are emotionally, spiritually or even physically able to do it. It is in the things they hear from both the adults and one another, when those making the comments think that child is not around. "Oh, he is the one with the mother who is..."; "Did you see what so and so was wearing? No one who is cool wears that!"; "That kid would be fine it that bitch of a mother would just do what I tell her to! I am the teacher!"; "Here, shove these pills down your kids throat cause their sense of humor or creativity or, God help us, individuality is disrupting the learning."
Yet these same people who feel entitled to all this control over your kids will call you when the child will not submit to that control. They want YOU to make the child act in the way THEY want, regardless if you agree with them or not. Regardless if their demands are good for your child or not. "They have to do what everyone else does!" is the answer. And they threaten arrest for you and disenfranchisement for the child if you do not comply. Can you hear the Borg... 'resistance is futile.'
So, you are lost to the conflicts of the school years. Your child is ripped from you in millimeters, subjected to the regimentation and structure of sameness as they struggle against you and the system for individuality. Influenced to shed what you taught them from birth to the time they got to school. How dare you teach your child to be themselves, WE want them to be just alike. How dare you teach them tolerance! Don't you know there are people you are supposed to hate? Your child drifts. They pull, because of the influence of biology, which is a normal process for all offspring. And they are ripped, by the society that tells you both you are negligible and important as a parent. And all the while, as this is happening, you are still loosing you.
And it is a funny thing, the loosing you part. They are pulling because it is nature yet you are pulling back, adjusting, compromising, making allowances for their growth while, at this point, consciously suppressing your own. The school is ripping them, each day exposing them to the parts of life you know it is inevitable for them to see and experience, but also knowing it is all too soon for their precious psyches and the effects it will have in their adulthood. All the while you stand as the sentry at the door, again adjusting, paring the fat of your own person hood so your kids can see you dealing with the blows and hardships: Seeing that 'adult' means compromising with the outside things as well as the family things you compromised due to nature. And you loose a little more of you each time.
But again, this time passes. Again, all too soon they reach the point of graduation. They walk across that stage and you are proud of them, happy for them, and as satisfied as you can be that you have done your level best to help them to this point. Now they are on their own! OH GOD!!
Oh God! OH GOD! Now what? You have lost you as you have raised these wonderful, intelligent and now ready to be on their own people who no longer require such close supervision. As a parent you will always be around, but the supervision, the part that is so hands on, will not be required anymore... well, at least not unless they ask for your advice. You won't offer, since that is interfering or meddling, which is not allowed cause they are adults with their own lives now. (sorry, sometimes the sarcasm is too thick to prevent its escape) You will still be a parent, but that does not answer the question. Now what? And more than that, how?
See, you were a whole person once. You chose to give up some parts of yourself to raise and love your children. You did it voluntarily, with love and, in most cases, well thought-out blissfulness. But now that you are here, now what. You need those parts back now... or at least something to take their place, right? Don't you? You are stepping out into a world as clumsily as this paragraph seems to be formed... maybe even as clumsily as your child's first steps. You don't know exactly where you are going because in some ways you have never been here before and in other ways you are looking for the road you got off those many years ago, worried you will not find it again. And no, it does not matter if you were a single parent with all the responsibility or you were a closed couple that did the nuclear family thing. You still go through it.
I guess it is cliche to call it the Empty Nest syndrome, but maybe that is what it is. The feeling that now that your babies have fledged you have an Empty place that you are expected to fill with something. For me, I guess it is building a hobby into a business. Re-enabling that part of me that sees and can produce beauty and pleasure. I create for myself. That part is a maturity thing. Knowing that folks will respond to what comes from your heart rather then what you produce in an attempt to keep up with the rabble. I also look to the outside world by trying to open myself to new people and experiences. I stretch those muscles in MY psyche that I disregarded for so long while I raised my son, and in the end I guess that it is not just my son who walks across that stage on Thursday.