Parenting: The Love Whose Goal is Separation

Children Must Learn to Ride Without Us, Step by Step

I waited at the school bus stop for E, my oldest (Kindergarten) grandchild, and looked forward to the huge smile and hug she always gives when she sees it’s me meeting the bus today.

This time, though, I got a consolation hug and a small smile. No running into my arms. No “Hi, Grandma!!!!!” . Instead, E handed me her backpack and walked four steps ahead of me to be with the two older girls who live across the street.

For the first time as a grandparent, I got the lukewarm shoulder. Oh, E was sweet and respectful, but I didn’t feel like the bestest person in the whole wide world in that moment.

Ouch.

For the first time as a grandparent, I got the lukewarm shoulder.

As a parent, I’d gone through this twice already. I know all too well the ego hit when your son or daughter grows away from depending completely on you to stepping further and further into the world.

Then I read this passage from The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm.

In erotic love, two people who were separate become one. In motherly love, two people who were one become separate. The mother must not only tolerate, she must wish and support the child’s separation.

This is not meant as a total embrace of Fromm’s writings: I find a lot of it sexist and otherwise flawed, but this quote, standing alone, helped me view parenting through a different lens, and I’ll need it again as the grandkids grow up and step away.

The goal is separation.

The best gift we can give a child is the love, support and confidence to eventually take over their own lives, wisely and well, with confidence.

For that, we take little steps away, as appropriate, and our own egos must relearn to find other sources of esteem when our children begin to notice that we aren’t perfect, and that we are not the center of their universe all the time.

Painful, yes, but necessary – for our growing children and grandchildren, and for us.

Someday we will be an embarrassment to our children. That’s the hard truth. No matter how cool we think we are, they will find us, um, let’s just say less than cool.

I guess I just didn’t expect a moment of that from a kindergartner. Sigh.

The best gift we can give a child is the love, support and confidence to eventually take over their own lives, wisely and well, with confidence.

The goal is separation….with love. Doesn’t mean we can’t be the safety net, the foundation, the guideposts…but when children show signs of being okay without us, that is a good thing.

Gotta remember that when the two younger ones get off that bus in a year or two.

 

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