Published: May 3, 2011
“You’ve got to cut the cord, Mom.”
This piece of sage advice brought to you by my 20-year-old son. It’s his way of comforting me (from Texas) as I’m preparing to send his younger sister off to college (in California.) Did I mention our family is PCSing this summer (to Virginia)? What part of “nearest and dearest” do these kids not understand? The “nearest” part, apparently.
I’ve always been proud of my children’s willingness to pick up and go, to consider any new assignment their home, to adapt to almost any situation. However, I’ve discovered there is a limit to my admiration for their no-strings attitude. It’s at the end of the string that ties them to me. Probably the one my son thinks I need to cut.
“Now you know how I feel.”
This slice of cold comfort brought to you by my mother. It’s her way of sympathizing with me (from Oklahoma) while I’m (in Germany) bemoaning the distance that will separate me from my two oldest children next year.
Okay, so she is right. I have no one to blame but myself – well, possibly my military husband. When they were toddlers who scarcely noticed when they moved, we encouraged our children to become grade-schoolers who viewed each move as an adventure. When they were young teens who left friends tearfully, we taught them to believe they could make friends anywhere. Now they are young adults who embrace their global upbringing to the extent that living on the same planet with their parents seems close enough.
Children who have watched us live for years far away from our own parents may assume that far away is the natural place for parents.
“But that’s not what I meant!”
This attempt at backpedaling brought to you by me. This is my way of coping with a consequence of our nomadic life that I did not foresee – if you consider denial a means of coping. I wonder now how I could have missed such an obvious natural progression.
Children who have been taught that home can be anywhere have the confidence to believe they can make anywhere their home – without respect to parental proximity.
Someone will no doubt wish to point out that the goal of parenting is to work oneself out of a job, that raising children to stay in the nest is pointless. So before you write that letter, let me just say, “You’re right – but not helpful.” What I want right now is sympathy, tissues and frequent flyer miles, not platitudes.
Maybe in a few years, I’ll be adjusted to looser family ties. Then I’ll be able to throw around pithy phrases about empty nests with the best of them.
But to tell the truth, the thought of that future me with calluses on her heart where the strings once were lacks appeal. I’d rather think that the strings would stay attached but become more elastic, connecting without binding, perhaps encouraging my children to draw closer again.
I’m not asking for the same zip code, although that would be nice. I am hoping for the same time zone, but if I’ve learned anything in a lifetime of military moving, it is that feeling close to those you love has little to do with geography or Greenwich Mean Time.
My mother assures me this process is painful for all parents, military and otherwise. She said it helps to know your children are prepared to choose and travel their own paths.
“You will always miss your children,” Mom told me. “But it’s a different kind of ‘missing’ when you know they are where they need to be.”
Wise ones advise us to give our children roots and wings. In our mobile life, I wonder if we’ve given them too much of one and not enough of the other. We’re in the process of launching our children out of the nest while our nest is in motion. What kind of crazy life is this?
It's the only one we know – the one we’ve taught our children to love.
This foregone conclusion brought to you by me.