When our babies are born we are catapulted into the most intense relationships of our lives. Yeah, you remember, right? And we thought our first love was as powerful as our emotions could ever be — hah! It isn’t just coincidence hormones were involved in both instances, but there is another common element: constantly being in touch — physically, emotionally, and verbally.
With our firstborn, it is a shock to the system. We have to be attentive and connected 24/7; it is our duty to cherish and nurture our new miracle. Wanting to be with your first love 24/7? I’d characterize it as being more voluntary and, until the inevitable breakup, really pleasant.
In my view, the advent of the possibility of a lifetime of constant contact with our children is a great premise for a horror movie. Be honest, didn’t you look forward to some “me” time when your child started preschool or kindergarten? How about when they had their first sleepover?
Constant contact wasn’t possible once upon a time. (For example, in the dark ages when my children were young.) We knew if there was a serious problem the school or supervising adult would call us. Because we weren’t personally monitoring them, our children began to experience the feeling they could not only survive but also have fun, learn, see how other families operated, and a myriad of other things — without us.
Some children take to it easily — they are born with independent natures. Some children are born less independent — they need to be picked up in the middle of the night from a sleepover at their best friend’s house. Good parents strategize how to deal with the innate nature of each child. And, as a good parent, you just might have to quell the feelings of rejection or sadness that may arise from having an independent child. This means not texting or calling them to find out how they are. And, for those children who are less independent, you support them by exposing them to successive periods of “fun” separations with increasing lengths of time so they learn to accept, and hopefully enjoy, some independence. In this case, not texting or calling them to find out how they are, also applies!
I did not expect to be in constant contact with my children after they were about 3 years old, and honestly, I don’t think you should be either. I’ll tell you why: our job as parents is to raise independent, self-sufficient, and productive people. If we are in constant contact we interfere with their learning those things.
The article influencing today’s post is an opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times, titled, Leaving and Cleaving, by David Brooks. He starkly states:
“For example, to be around college students these days is to observe how many parents have failed to successfully start their child’s transition into adulthood.”
He cautions that we need to be the grownup — my words, not his — but that is what he is saying! We must suppress our own want/need to be in constant contact with our children for their own good. Just as in “the good old days” however, they do need to know they can count on us in an emergency, and, frankly cell phones are GREAT for emergencies. But still also true is the need for children to learn day by day and step by step that they can stand on their own two feet. This journey takes years and years, but good parents let it happen at the right pace — not too soon — not too late.
As I write this I’m laughing at myself. My children are no longer children but young adults, and I admit to being much more “in their business” now than I was when they were growing up. I’m thankful we have both the relationships and the technology that allow it to happen.
Latest posts by Candace Fitzpatrick (see all)
- Are We Really Struggling? - May 21, 2015
- A Mother’s Day Tribute – Just Ask the Questions You Have - May 7, 2015
- Any Ideas? - April 23, 2015