Sometimes finding the right words can be the hardest thing to do. I’m referring to those moments when what you say – and how you say it – reveal who you truly are and what you stand for. Even as a writer, I feel that my words often betray me, especially with those that I love the most. Expressing the depth of the love that you feel – or a heaviness of concern for someone that you care for – can become all muddled and jumbled, and in the end, make you end up saying things that you don’t really even mean.
It’s said that there is no other bond like a mother with her children – and I’m finding that this may be the hardest – and most important – area of our lives to find the right words. Our children start out as extensions of ourselves – they’re a part of us. And although they become their own people, with the same right to make decisions –and mistakes – as everyone else, their lives are still inextricably tied to ours.
As the mother of teenagers, the attitude of my children is now one of “chill out and back off – I know what I’m doing.” Luckily, my children have been respectful enough not to say that directly – but it’s most certainly the vibe of the times around here. And I know that as much as I might hate to admit it, I really have no other option than to do that. I can exercise my obligation to offer advice and “guide” but beyond that, I now have to reach deep and find the inner strength to sit back and wait – then either breathe a sigh of relief or step in and pick up the pieces. If I’m not careful, there could be casualties at the stage of the game. These nagging fears could easily strip away the hard-earned inner peace that I’ve found – and at worst, actually alienate and distance me from my children. It’s a tough line to walk.
Of course I know that this isn’t just my experience, but that of every parent that’s ever been. My Sicilian grandmother, two generations ago, often said “when they’re little they step on your toes – and when they’re older, they step on your heart.” I never really liked the sound that but now I do understand it. Our hearts are tied together, for better or worse, stronger than any marriage could ever be. You cannot divorce yourself from your child. At a core level, some part of you leaves a light on for them – waiting for them to return and bring along with them that all-consuming joy that they gifted you with as babies. I suspect that even seemingly uninvolved mothers, who’ve chosen not to be a part of their children lives, must live out every joy, pain, triumph and heartache with their child, if even in their own imaginations.
So, as a mom with children on the verge of becoming adults – I’m sitting here clumsily trying to learn some new parenting skills – patience, tact and wisdom – all presented with unconditional love. And the right words will be crucial. I cannot allow my fears for the “what if’s” of life to flavor this conversation. I have to believe in the strength, integrity and goodness of the souls that I’ve helped to raise – and their ability to find their own way to happy, authentic, and fulfilling lives. It may be the toughest task I’ve ever taken on – but the one thing I know for sure is that each new day brings with it the opportunity to do better. And although my words will surely fail me from time to time – there’s always another chance to get it right.
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