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Sunday, July 23, 2017
I was participating in a group discussion when one of the members asked one of the other mothers what was wrong. This particular person was clearly depressed with something on her mind that was bothering her. She replied that she was having a really difficult week with her 21 year old daughter. The girl was being nasty and hurtful and insulting for no apparent reason that the mother could see, and she was hurting very badly.
That set off a whole round table discussion as one after another stories were told about sons and daughters behaving badly for no apparent reason other than to be unpleasant. By the time it came my turn I realised I had heard enough to reflect a common thread that ran through all the stories, and while it would really be better that a psychologist explain, my impression is as follows:
My son is a wonderful individual, just as everyone else described their own children. He has been respectful of his mother and myself, but when he had the opportunity to take a Gap year he left us here in Spain and went to Australia. Had he tried to get farther away from us he would have been on his way back. This worried me tremendously because had he got himself in real trouble there would not have been anyway we could have helped.
That was the very point! He had grown up in our house, under our rules and protection and now he was starting the breakaway process. He was trying to stand on his own two feet. He needed to prove to himself that he could do things on his own where failure was not an option. Had we tried to stop him at the time I suspect some things might have been said that would have been regretted.
He left home a boy and he survived in Australia on his own, with the occasional gift of money from home because it was necessary, but when he returned home he came back as a man
Our son is now working five hours drive away from us and he is independent. He is making his own money, his own decisions, he lives with his girlfriend and the relationship between him, his mother and myself has been preserved. All is well!
Throughout the world it is probable that more children will yearn to breakaway from home and parents than not, but to achieve this is not an easy thing. Living at home usually means that meals appear on the table, your laundry is done for you, and there's a roof over your head. You may or may not be required to contribute towards theses services, but to leave home means you leave all this comfort and security behind. This is a very confusing time for a young person. There is the natural pull by independence and the hold on the child by security. If independence and adulthood are to win out an awful tearing process takes place and all those terrible things your child says and does is the fuel to gain momentum to bring about separation.
It is usually an ugly process that also takes place in the animal kingdom, although there it is usually done with a little less drama. The young one is denied mother's milk and so goes off on his or her own to grow up and to begin the process all over again.
As parents our role is to give our children space to let go. It would be good to encourage them to go without perhaps being too active, as they ideally would like to do it on their own . However, if they are hamstrung by not having the financial ability to get started and you have the money to set them up then just for the sake of kicking them out of the house to leave you in peace, it will be worth it.
One common mistake we all make as parents is that we keep our children's old rooms vacant for them with the invitation the door is always open for you. Our children don't want to hear that. It would be better to rent the room or turn it into something you always wanted but couldn't have because they were in it. Our child does not want to know that there is that safety net for him because we expect him or her to succeed.
When your children grow up into becoming you they will then understand, but by that time they will want to forget what they put you through, and when it becomes their turn they will be as confused as we all were in our discussion group.
Life's funny/strange that way.
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