Yesterday I told you that I told my daughter that she could not come home from college till Thanksgiving. Some of you came straight out and said I did the right thing. No one said I didn’t do the right thing, but I could tell…..they weren’t thrilled with my answer. And a bunch of people wanted to know “Why”. Why did I say no?
Here’s the WHY.
The job of a parent is to teach their child how to live without them. Seriously- you are a successful parent if your child is able to leave the nest and prosper. And by prosper I do not mean make a million dollars, or start Microsoft, or be the President. Prosper means doing things for themselves: having a source of income and an abode and some sort of goal, even if that goal is binging shows on Netflix. Choosing reasonable friends and mates (but yeah- we screw up there 50% of the time, cause no one has a relationship crystal ball- but that’s ok cause they’re out there) Prosper means taking care of your health and home. Sewing a button. Making pasta. Cleaning the toilet. Eating healthy.
That’s the job description: must teach how to clean the grout in the tub and fold a fitted sheet.
That’s all practical of course. Your kid must learn how to do all the things you routinely do. Which means that you do not go to their house and do all those things…
Seriously- don’t do your kids laundry once they move out.
Now, along with the practical comes the emotional. Which is where my decision comes in.
I miss my kid. Of course I do. She spent almost 18 years in the bed down the hall, and way to long in utero before that. She is my debate partner. We recommend books to one another. We go to cultural events together. We had tea together every night so we could talk out our days. So of course I would love her to come home.
But what does coming home accomplish?
What does it really teach her?
Someone suggested that it would reassure her, to be able to know she can come home. But does it really reassure her? Or does it signal that I don’t think she can hack her new life? That it’s OK to run home at the slightest “misfortune” because Mommy will take care of her….
Shouldn’t the goal be to teach her that she can, is totally able, to care for herself?
Which is why I said “No”.
Remember when kids were little: how many band aids did they go through? They were still getting their sea legs, which cause them to fall. Running too fast, doing things they shouldn’t. My daughter would be covered in Dora the Explorer band aids…..Until she learned how to walk more confidently, and learned when to run fast and which situations could be dangerous….then she didn’t need as many band aids. She was solving the root of the problem. Coming home is a band aid. It covers the problem, masks it, but doesn’t really solve what caused the scrape. Coming home is essentially running away. If she is not at school, how is she learning to deal with what ails her at school?
Running away. Do we really want to teach our children to run away from problems? Run away from things that scare them? Emotionally I mean. If Godzilla is running towards you by all means RUN….
Don’t we want our kids to confront what’s in front of them?
Do we want them changing jobs because they don’t like their boss? I mean continually. I had a friend who used to change her job every year because of personality differences. Trust me: that story does not end well.
Do we want our kids giving up on relationships because their is a little bump in the road? While there are clearly times when divorce is necessary, do people give up and walk away a tad too easily?
Do you move because you don’t like your neighbor? (true story- my sister has a friend that did just this recently- and we’re talking selling a house)
So big picture: what lesson do I want to teach my daughter?
I love her. She knows that. Every action she takes dictates that she knows she is loved immeasurably. Her strength, character and resilience show that. I love her, but I am also tough with her. I am her parent, not her friend.
I want her to continue to be strong.
I want her to continue to be confident.
I want her to continue to be resilient.
But she needs to be a few hundred miles away.
Because while I am always there for her, I can’t always be there for her. She has to find me in her heart, not resettle herself in her bedroom down the hall. “Mommy loves you, but you don’t need me anymore. You got this.”