parent (pâr’ənt): 1. n. In the words of journalist Suzanne Gordon, “the identity that can never be shed.”
parenting (pâr’ən-tĭng): 1. n. The act of guiding a growing human being through a succession of increasingly complicated issues for at least 18 years.
requirements of parenting (not in any particular order):
- Fortitude (Of mind, soul and body.)
- Wisdom (Often beyond your years.)
- Humor (Hopefully in abundance.)
beyond shelter, nourishment and education
Hindsight being 20/20, I would say good parenting requires much more than teaching the basic requirements. Sure, the basic expectations start with learning to “go potty” and to cloth and feed one’s self. Hopefully this learning progresses to reading, writing, and independent thinking. Later, the lessons of the world might wander into the picture, including respecting others, nurturing relationships, and dealing with and overcoming hostility, disappointment, anger and sadness. All this time we have to understand that during this learning a child may be bruised — physically, mentally and emotionally — along the way. All we can do is tend to those injuries as best we can.
During this process the rewards for a parent are sometimes a series of extraordinary challenges: worrying about a child’s safety and well-being; balancing our own frustration and sometimes anger with a child’s often erratic needs; supporting and giving despite no “please” or “thank you.” Then, after all this, we must let go.
We can’t let go. I’ve decided that it is simply impossible. The parent-child relationship will always exist. However, we can shift the responsibility for an adult child’s life from ourselves to them. The adult child may or may not accept this transference. If they don’t, we are left to acknowledge that the acceptance of this responsibility may sit in limbo for days, weeks, months, years or the rest of an adult child’s life. This requires the learning of a new skill: resisting the temptation to reclaim the responsibility for an adult child’s life.
And so, with an adult child, I see it coming full circle. Once again, we may be asked to tend to some bruising along the way. But the hope is that the subtle difference, as in all adult-to-adult relationships, will be in the asking.