Is It Today or Tomorrow?
Overheard: “I’m so overwhelmed with all the college stuff we have to do in this junior year,” a mom began, “I could actually cry. I’m not even kidding.” Then her eyes teared up.
I’m not even kidding.
I just wanted to hug her and point out that today her son is fine. He’s happy, he’s healthy, he’s in high school, dammit, and if you don’t appreciate how lucky you are to have all of that today, you are ignoring a time you can be happy and replacing it by thinking about the ways in which you might not be happy later.
We all do it. It’s called worry; when we could be looking at now and realizing all’s well but instead we project into the future when we aren’t sure all will be well. Here was a woman with a bright child at home and a bright future ahead and she is so weary and worried, she’s missing an opportunity for today’s joy. Plus, she’s clearly over- functioning as a mother because she shouldn’t be overwhelmed with “college stuff.” Her son should be handling that. If he has too much going on with applications, etc. she should be advising him to cut back. Maybe apply to fewer schools. Maybe even go one step further, both for herself and her son, and realize where you go to college isn’t nearly as important as we make it out to be.
We parents aren’t known for our Zen-like attitude, the one that instructs us to “Be here now.” But shouldn’t we be? Shouldn’t parenting be the ultimate activity in need of a Zen-like attitude? Our children won’t be in our homes forever. They will eventually have other people they love in their lives. We parents will be relegated to a more minor role, as we should be. All the more reason for us to “Be here now,” and teach our children to do the same. Help kids develop perspective about what really matters in the world. It’s not where you go to school, it’s the person you are when you go. What determines your future is who you are, more so than anything else.
We need to stop living through our children, living for them, and doing everything for them. We need to draw a line between their lives, their needs, and our own. We need to maintain quality lives while we are raising them. It’s the best way to teach them well enough to send them out into the world.
When my daughters were young they were amused by the fact that a publisher thought my parenting advice was sufficiently valid to have a book published. In challenging moments they’d throw out a snarky, “Yeah, Mom, I know, you’re the parenting expert!” But what the publisher said she liked about the advice I gave was that it was practical and simple without preaching perfection as a goal for parents. In fact, my focus was more on the parent’s needs than the child’s. The gist was that when you become a parent, your aim should be to integrate your children into your life, to intertwine them into the tapestry of life you had already begun to weave, not to blow up your design and start a wholly different life just because you had kids. My point was that parents could raise kids who would learn independence, integrity, and intellectual curiosity from watching their parents exhibit those characteristics. In doing so parents could maintain the integrity of their own lives. Ultimately kids would become adults who could take on the world while their parents would continue living satisfying lives. Raising Amazing Children While Having a Life Of Your Own was the title of the book. It’s just been updated and re-released it if you know a parent who could use a little help in making her life just a bit easier, a bit more Zen.