Doing Only as Well as Your Least Healthy Child

20100928_083641_IMG_0006.JPGYou, who are on the roadMust have a code that you can live byAnd so, become yourselfBecause the past is just a goodbye

Teach your children wellTheir father’s hell did slowly go byAnd feed them on your dreamsThe one they pick’s the one you’ll know by

Don’t you ever ask them, “Why?”If they told you, you would crySo just look at them and sighAnd know they love you

And you (Can you hear?) of tender years (And do you care?)Can’t know the fears (And can you see?)That your elders grew by (We must be free)And so, please help (To teach your children)Them with your youth (What you believe in)They seek the truth (Make a world)Before they can die (That we can live in)

And teach your parents wellTheir children’s hell will slowly go byAnd feed them on your dreamsThe one they pick’s the one you’ll know by

Don’t you ever ask them, “Why?If they told you, you will crySo just look at them and sighAnd know they love you
~ Graham Nash

Most successful loving relationships begin on equal ground. A glaring exception is the relationship between a parent and a child. Relationships with our children start with complete dependence of one on another. Their lives literally depend on us.

The desired future of this loving relationship – unlike any other – is separation. In the best of scenarios, these helpless beings, under our tutelage, become adults.

We give physically and mentally for decades. Despite being told “you aren’t the boss of me,” we are the boss.

Every family is different and our communication with our adult children is constantly in flux. The primal need to have a loving and close relationship, while maintaining healthy boundaries, is a challenge that resonates with many of my readers. 

Some parents make it look easy – when detachment occurs at the right time and place. For most of us, this transition is an enormous challenge for both the grownup child and the aging parent.

There are adult children that chose to live geographically far away, like my three. This involves a daunting set of logistical acrobatics and emotional agility. Others live nearby and parents are faced with a different set of challenges, how to live close but let them be. Some live geographically close and hardly see each other. 

My kids’ phone numbers are saved as favorites therefore bypassing  ‘Do Not Disturb.’ When they call, my first thought is uh-oh.  

Sometimes they call just to chat.
Other times they are looking for advice.

They may be asking for us to fix things, to tell them what to do. 
They may simply want validation, to hear our acceptance and support.
I try to pick up the cues on what they are seeking at that moment. I try to listen before I talk. 

I am aware that my love language is worry. If I love you, I worry about you.  My parents worried about me all the time. I know it was because they loved me but it paradoxically made me live more dangerously.

At some point in a healthy parent-child relationship, our children realize we are not perfect. We make mistakes. We say the wrong thing. We don’t have all the answers. A medical crisis or family tragedy can expose vulnerabilities of a parent that children may not be ready for. When I got sick my daughter was eight years old. My attention instinctively shifted from full-on mom to survival mode. 

Many parents feel like they need to tiptoe around certain topics. Desperately wanting to offer an opinion but worrying about it backfiring is exhausting. Cognitively we know they need to forge their own way but that doesn’t make it any easier.  

No one is perfect. In fact, trying to be perfect is futile. Donald Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst in 1953, argued that trying to be perfect only leads to frustration. He claimed that you do not need to be “the best” mother to raise a healthy child who feels loved and nurtured, you just need to be “good enough.” 

Who still has an adult kid on your cellphone plan 🙋🏻‍♀️? I think that’s one of the last things to go.