There is a point in every life when childhood ends, where you are considered mature enough to handle things for yourself. That’s good and bad of course. The good is you run your own show, without answering to a soul. The bad is that you run your own show, so everything is your responsibility or your fault for forgetting.
It’s a hard lesson. A daunting idea.
I recall being a senior in college and being terrified at the prospect of graduation. I felt unprepared and had (too late) realized how good I had it as a college student. That time of your life, for those lucky enough to get it, is priceless. You spread your wings. Open your mind. Become something different from when you started. I would not trade those four years for anything, and have worked hard to be sure my children get that same experience.
The unease at impending reality is a feeling that’s alive and well in a few college seniors facing tradition this year. It’s a shock to realize there will be no more spring breaks and summer’s off, internships will end and things will move on. Preparation for adulthood is at an end. You will now join the working world, with all its privileges and pitfalls.
It’s true, only recently have I come to understand why no one told me things about being a mother when I first joyfully announced my pregnancy. It was common consent, decency and kindness that kept others from telling me how huge a job I was undertaking. How it would be harder than I ever imagined, would test me in ways I could not foresee, would last far longer than I’d been promised.
I’m thinking about this again today because there’s a growing crop of newborns joining our already large family this year, and the news is thrilling. There is something very satisfying about watching the next generation (ones you knew as children) pass the milestones; college, career, marriage, first child. I smile at the thought of all the wonderful moments they’ll have. It will be a joy to watch these babies grow, these young people become parents.
Right now, as you read this, this rabidly addictive and obscenely affordable/available drug is taking the life, potential, future from some parent’s baby. I hope that things are different in your part of the world, but here in mine (and in the U.S. it seems), far, far too many of our children are being lost to this drug.
If you doubt the popularity of this awful substance, a government survey from 2012 put the number at nearly 669,000 Americans who reported using heroin in the last year. That number has been on the rise since 2007. Here’s the worst thing… First time heroin users include 156,000 who bought into the lie. Who think they can handle it, take it or leave it. Who are so desperate, wounded or broken inside that even a false, temporary escape holds irresistible allure.
Proof that no heroin addict can manage this comes in the stark and terrible truth — overdose deaths are on the rise. Too many of our precious babies are dying every day. And we’re watching it happen.
Oh sure babies are wonderful, cute and cuddly. And the smell… Trust me, you’ll never love another living thing in quite the same way. But becoming a mother is not a life choice to make on impulse, because friends are having babies or you hear that biological clock ticking away. Too many women make this choice without any idea of what they’re getting into.
Well let me tell you, motherhood is a tough, thankless job that calls for lifelong commitment, regular sacrifice and the ability to put another’s needs before your own. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’ve done it a thousand times already. Even when you think you’ve done enough. (more…)
Anyone who’s ever done it will tell you how hard it is. Some people can’t bring themselves to do it, and I see why.
Every instinct is telling you to hang on, hang on tight; but the better, more rational part of you knows this is selfish and short-sighted. You have to let them go. Whether child, lover or something else, there comes a time when letting go is the best for them, even as it’s the worst thing for you, the one left behind. It is a heartbreak shared by mothers all down the ages; to separate from a child you love with your whole heart and soul, who makes you laugh every day, who gives the best, hardest hugs. Who fills your life with light.
Now you have to send that away with a smile and a few closet organizers. There is no greater torture.
Look at him. His name is Leo. His story is getting lots of traction on the internet, and it’s raised some painful personal memories, along with a few hackles.
The story is about a father, Samuel Forrest (from Armenia) who, upon finding out his newborn son had Down Syndrome (DS for short), and that his wife would divorce him if he kept the child, did the very best thing a parent could do. He kept the baby boy and is working hard to make a life for him.
There’s a gofundme page here if you’d like to help fund his trip back to his native New Zealand where he plans to live with the boy.
Childhood has changed. A lot.
I knew that already, though my youngest is 15, without running across this item from NextDraft, one of my favorite daily reads. Can you imagine the absurdity of a police investigation of parents who had the poor judgement to let their children walk home from a park near their home? The kids didn’t get halfway before the police were there to pick them up and drive them the rest of the way.
In a case of being the right people in the right place, these parents (Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Maryland) were not grateful, chagrined or humbled at being caught exercising the proper care of their children. And they weren’t arrested like a South Carolina mother who let her daughter play at the playground while she was at work. These parents, to varying degrees, practice what my own parents did, a sort of “free range” parenting that allows calculated risks after careful planning.
We should all be cheering these people. They are trying to give their children an incredible, invaluable gift — an old fashioned childhood.
Growing up, I never considered not going to college. A college education seemed like a natural progression, my parents had degrees and had done well. It was what I knew. I was lucky to grow up at a time when college was affordable, in a household where my mother and father valued higher learning but weren’t all that impressed with ivy league names. In those days, a bachelor’s degree from a solid school was a fairly reliable assurance of future career success. That’s not true anymore, my children are facing a different world.
College isn’t affordable anymore. A bachelor’s degree isn’t a guarantee of success. And yet I know people who would give anything, do anything to attain this edge for their children. I know talented students who are kept down because of the cost of higher learning. That’s why we are at the mercy of the colleges and the student loan system — why colleges will likely keep charging whatever they want, why government will continue to make over the top loans to finance that education. Parents (all parents want better for their children.
This desire is one of the most basic, most persistent in a parent’s heart — to see your child go one step (or more) further than you did. To want better for them. For their road to be easier than your own. For them to have things you lacked. To know they are a success, self-sufficient and well settled. It’s this most natural desire that drives us to take on insane amounts of debt, scramble after scholarships or fall victim to the lure of athletic “full boats”.
Let’s face it, we tell our children a lot of lies. Not just Santa and Easter bunny type; but bigger, more destructive lies that linger long into adult life. Seems like many of these are really our own wishes, proven false in the course of our own experience. You know the ones… You can expect life to be fair, for people to play by the rules. Hard work is recognized, rewarded. Bad always loses to good. Looks don’t matter, it’s what inside that counts. Happily ever after exists for everyone. The American dream, doing better than the generation before, is still within reach.
We want to believe.
One of the hardest things as a parent is to judge when to be honest with a child, and what to be honest about. Some things, Santa and the tooth fairy for example, are issues we all confront and are not at all what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about bigger lies… lies that seem all too easy to tell… lies about talent or potential, about circumstances between parents or family, about limitations of the real world, about the very real unfairness of life.
I can’t believe we are still arguing about some topics, one of the most recent examples is breastfeeding. My babies are 21, 18 and 14, so those days are long gone for me. But the pressure to breastfeed (healthier, closer bonding) remains just as strong for today’s moms and that’s a crying shame.
C’mon girls, can we not learn to support each other’s choices? Agree to disagree?