When my daughter was born, I thought, “Ah, this is love.” Nothing quite compared. Made me realize for the first time what my own mother must’ve felt. Also, intensified my guilt for being such a rebellious teenager.
That love only grew. I will never forget changing Domenica’s diaper and realizing that she was saying her first word. No, not mama. She said, “light.” (She actually said “yight,” but I knew what she meant.) I remember when she discovered her feet. I remember the first time I asked her little one-year-old self to go and get a book, just to see if she understood, and she did. It was nothing short of a miracle. I remember the first time she bled. Her first fever. Her first shoes – soft, white leather.
I remember how Domenica used to get mad at me for reading Parenting magazine because that was somehow cheating. I loved putting her hair in a ballet bun, watching her perform Shakespeare, bragging on her poetry, binging on “Gilmore Girls.” Together, on the couch.
A unique journey
Dropping her off at college in Illinois, I remember feeling like we were breaking up. Sitting in the hotel room, knowing we would leave the next day without her, I kept checking my phone to see if she’d called. Or texted. Or emailed. She hadn’t.
That was a good thing. For me, the hardest part of parenting was recognizing that my daughter was no longer a part of me. That the separation began the day she was born. Her journey is uniquely hers. She makes choices I wouldn’t make. Just as I make choices my mother would never make. As it should be.
My own best life
Jungian analyst and author James Hollis said in a recent workshop, “Free your children from your own unlived life, your expectations that they ratify your values, and release them as you wished release from the expectations of your parents.”
In that Portland, Oregon, workshop, Dr. Hollis asked how many of us have said to our children, “You are here to live your journey. You are not here to please me. I will offer opinions if asked. You will always have a place here; it’s called home. Regardless of how you live your life.” No hands went up.
I used to say that my job as a parent was to make sure Domenica didn’t need me. I realize now that is only half the task. The other half is to live my own best life so that she isn’t bound by the weight of me needing her.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Tell me how you experience letting your children go, or what it was like to separate psychologically from your own mother?