Parent-in(g)-Shifts

I made a mistake.  I chose to do for my son instead of for me.  It sounds almost blasphemous coming out of my mouth, but it is true.  And now my stomach is in knots.  He didn’t need me to change my plans to help him through what turned out to be a nano second of anxiety.  But I needed me to. And now his nano second is my “should I have a  glass of wine?” or “maybe shop on-line?” because I am anxious, so so so so.

Why? Because I let people down and didn’t show up? Yes.  But really because I traded off my need to control for his happiness with the actuality of mine. AND, get this, he didn’t need me to do so, not one little bit.  I am stuck in the sticky footprint, resisting the change to my job description from parent of small child with no life skills to parent of budding adult with some.

I wonder if we might have parenting as a paradigm all wrong. Instead of parent child pairings (or triads or quads or quints with all the modern-day blending) where we stay with each other from birth through transitions to launch, maybe we should parent in shifts. Take me as an example.  I am super in love with infants.  I crave the cuddling, the folding of one body into the other.  I am at ease responding to every need. It’s not a burden for me, but a pleasure. Very focusing and calming to not have to actively enforce boundaries.  So, I’ll take all the infants.  No problem. Especially for those of you who like ‘em better when they can talk or crawl or do things.

Plus, I seem to suck at (or at least have a very protracted learning curve for) the teen parenting thing.  I am not so good at letting learning happen through challenge or not babying. And forget boundaries – nothing ready-made there.   Really, this should be someone else’s parenting shift if we are going to do right by the boy.  As a wise person once told me, teenagers are neither the children they were nor the adults they will be – and this nether land of not-quite-yet, yet already-done, these in-be-tweens, are making my parenting stomach hurt.

As if that isn’t enough to send me into fits tonight, with my choice to forfeit my own fun, I also succeeded in stealing him his chance to prove he’s got this.  I want him to know his own resilience, but I don’t want him to be uncomfortable. And these two things rely on each other.  Bad construction if you ask me. Who came up with that as a plan? Antithetical and counter intuitive, almost sadistic really – feel challenged so you learn you can stand up to it, survive it even?  Blech.

And the other problem, while I’m listing them, is that while all this is new to me, all this is new to him too. He is new to him (as he is to me).  Add to that that life’s questions and decisions do not come with drum rolls to allow for anticipation and planning. It’s more like the 1990’s Asteroids video game – unexpected things shooting straight at me from the ever-curving corners of an unknown universe, in a suspended-yet-animated way. Never know what could get you next.

What if my quarters could run out soon, so I could just rest my shoulders for a bit.  They hurt from the tremendous pressure I am applying to the joystick, trying to get this thing just right.  If only it could be shift change, then I could go back to knowing that crying is either wet, hungry or tired. Not maybe hormones or maybe anger or maybe sadness or maybe needing me to say, “no,” or maybe…

©Gabriella Strecker, 2016

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