“Parent” is a Verb

My daughter made me laugh the other day as she was getting out of the car after spending an afternoon with me. She said, “Mom, I don’t think you worry enough about me. I mean, I finish law school in a few months, I still have to pass the bar, I have no job prospects and you don’t even seem the least bit worried.”  I smiled, knowing that the young woman getting out of the car will be fine. She will pass the bar, she will find a job and nothing will stop her.  So, I don’t worry.

Twenty-four hours later, I had breakfast with my son. We had stopped for some quality time together on our way to the airport for his return to school. Our conversation ended on a very different note. He said, (in a tone that was just begging for a good smack) “Mom, you worry about me way too much. I’ve got it all figured out, I’m fine, I know what I am doing, stop coaching me, I am not a client. PLEASE just trust me.” I cringed, knowing that the young man getting on that airplane still has much to learn. About life, about idealism, and about biting the hand that feeds him. So, I worry.

I started to ask myself how these two kids were so incredibly different. How did they grow up with the same parents, the same DNA, the same everything and they seem to be from different planets? Then it hit me; they aren’t different. They are very much alike. They are both stubborn, they both have strong convictions that they will stand behind come hell or high water. They both have gifts that they can’t wait to share with the world. They both have compassion and they both feel strongly about finding careers that involve helping others. In fact, they have both turned out to be independent thinkers; which is what I claim I was shooting for in the first place.

Circumstances Dictate

The difference, I realized, is me. It is how I view each of them at this particular juncture of parenting. I noticed that I view my daughter as an adult. I enjoy her company.  I interact with her without judgment. I recognize her accomplishments and I value her opinions. I have managed to make that parental break. I have learned to separate myself from her and I accept our new relationship as adult child and parent. I will forever be her mom, but I am no longer needed in the same fashion that I once was.

However, I’m not there yet with my son. I feel that I still have much work to do with him.  He is on the right path, but sometimes he can be impulsive and sometimes he can be defensive and sometimes he can be belligerent. Sometimes he can manage to do all three at the same time during one breakfast leaving me exasperated as he boards his plane to travel the 1400 miles back to school.  Then, just when I think that perhaps babies were switched at his birth and I have in fact raised the wrong kid, he calls me.  He says, (in a tone that sounded so very grown up) “Mom, I arrived safely and I didn’t want you to worry. And, by the way, I wanted you to know that I was thinking a lot about grad school on the plane. We will talk more at Christmas, but I’m excited about my plan.” I held the phone closely for a few seconds after the call, breathing a small sigh of relief.

I finally realize, after all these years, that the word parent is not a noun, it is a verb. It is a fluid term that changes on a daily basis depending on the needs of the child. It is a job that never ends and never becomes dull.  It’s a push-pull and a give-take.

At some point my relationship with my son will reach that place where I can make the separation and view him as an adult. But until that day comes, I’ll continue to coach him, continue to encourage him and continue to parent him. Because parent is a verb, and that’s an action word I can’t ignore.

*Note: The son AND daughter are both successfully embarked on their own careers since the writing of this article.  It’s worth it I promise!!