Monday, March 23, 2009
Emma is officially able to ride a bike. It happened without any help from me, as the responsibility for teaching our children to do anything outside falls on Ron. I take care of the inside realm.
But Emma wanted me to see her progress, so we headed to our sidewalk, where she climbed aboard and asked me to just hold the bicycle still while she got started. But then I couldn't let go because I was so sure she would fall if I did. She started laughing, stuck there in place because I was holding her back. "Let go!" she kept yelling. "I can't," I said, laughing along with her, but a little panicked at the same time. "Mom. Let go. And just watch." So I did. And she did just fine.
I had no idea I was so protective. But those words: "Mom. Let go. And just watch" . . . Ugh. I'm going to hear them again and again for the rest of my life, aren't I?
Growing up, I don't recall my parents hovering. Ever. They both worked and were so tired by the end of the day that they didn't ask if my homework was done or if my bed was made or if I had any papers from school for them to see. They came home, where I was already waiting since school let out. Mom made dinner. We ate. Dad went to his room to watch the news and read. I helped Mom clean the kitchen. Then we went our separate ways until morning. I loved my parents and never felt they paid too little attention to me. But I was often on auto-pilot, which worked just fine for me.
I, on the other hand, feel the need to be nearly hyper-involved in my kids' lives. I want to know who their friends are, who their friends are not. I want to know what makes them happy during the day, what makes they sad, afraid, angry, excited. I want them to talk to me . . . and to listen to me. I don't want to let go, and I'm constantly torn about how to not let go while still raising them to be capable, responsible adults.
When the time came for me to go to college, I was ready to be independent, because I felt like I already had been for many years. I cried when my parents drove away, because I was going to miss them--not because I was going to "need" them. I didn't appreciate the difference then but I do now. My parents quickly became my friends at that point, especially once I started paying for college myself 3 years later.
Early on, they knew how--whether by necessity or design--to let go and just watch. I don't know if I'll ever know how. But as long as my kids can laugh when they say it, just like Emma laughed while begging me to take my hands off the bike, I might just be okay, even if my own laughter is panicked or even hysterical or (and I have no doubt this will be the case at times) wracked with sobs.