The Hard Truth About Parenting
Here’s what no one tells you when you have kids: one day they will grow up and begin to date. You know this, of course. This isn't exactly news. But what you DON’T know is how you’re going to feel about it, and all that will follow afterwards. Let me explain….
Your child - whom you’ve raised to be a forward-thinker, someone strong willed and equally big of heart - will find that special someone to introduce to the family. And when that someone is no longer a part of your son/daughter’s life, you grieve what could have been. It’s like experiencing your own breakup. Only this time you’re expected to be a grown-up. You smile and you’re supportive and you say and do all the things a good parent should do. But you’re also heartbroken and sad for yourself for the loss of that special someone in your life.
My son fell head over heels in love when he was 17. His chosen one was an adorable, vivacious, funny, loving girl. We embraced her into our family almost from the first time we met her. She went on vacation with us. She and I had long talks about all of life’s challenges. She and our daughter became extremely close too, hanging out together frequently. For three years she was one of my own.
And then one day...she wasn’t.
She did a very bad thing and hurt my son in ways someone never should. My heart broke for him...and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to ease his pain. That’s another thing you’re never told….that watching your child suffer emotionally is one of the most difficult things in the world that you as a parent can do.
He eventually let go of his pain...after trying to drown it in booze and pot. He made some not so great choices in women he “dated”. But he was finally able to rise above and now he’s an old married man with an amazing wife who we adore. I’m grateful every day for the love and support she has given him (and for her ability to get my picky eater to eat anything).
I learned a lot as I grieved his ex in many ways, as one would with any loss. I was pissed. I cried a lot. And my heart really, really hurt. One day she was walking through my door without knocking – just as my own kids would - and two days later she was gone...and I’ve never seen or talked to her since then.
It’s a weird place to be, trying to be the loving and supportive mom and also hiding your pain because you don’t believe you have the right to feel that pain. I’ll still come across pictures of her sometimes and wonder what if. But then I remember what she did and how terribly devastated he was. I would never wish that pain on anyone. I also remind myself that my son did find his special someone after all and is a very happy man. Really, I could not ask for more.
After that breakup fiasco, I vowed that I would not grow close to anyone he or my daughter dated. And you need to understand that this isn’t an easy concept for me at all...I don’t have it in me to be standoffish to kids. I’m “mama” to a host of kids who have wandered in and out of our lives for years. Yes, I have two biological kids, but I really have about ten honorary ones too (maybe more). I’m the one they come to when they need a mom to talk to...or when they want to come out about their sexuality…or when they need someone to show them how to roll out cookie dough. I’m literally not wired to be a hard ass and NOT care.
Anyway....as you might assume, this post was fueled by yet another loss in our family. Our independent girl started dating this nice guy last year. He was everything a parent could want for their child: he was polite and respectful. He was easy to talk to and had a great sense of humor. He had oodles of patience for my parents. And he and my daughter seemed to have a great relationship.
Until one day...they didn’t.
As before, we had enfolded this boy into our lives. He’d come with her to visit many times. He attended my mom’s 80th birthday party and two celebrations of life for family members he’d never met. He and my son became really good friends too. And even my hard-ass and very protective husband seemed to let his guard down and really like the kid.
There was no drama with their split. They both wanted different things. It happens, I know that. But now I’m left with one less child, and frankly my heart is broken. I truly liked this boy (he’s over 18 so not technically a boy). The romantic in me could see the future with them...even if the logical part of me couldn’t. They were perfectly suited for one another, on paper anyway. But looking back I never saw that new love craziness that I still remember experiencing with my hubby many moons ago. All things happen for a reason, right? The good thing is that my girl isn’t heartbroken. So how can I be?
Loss is difficult in whatever way you experience it. I know that in time I’ll think about him and not feel my heart lurch. In time she will eventually find someone new; someone I’ll have to either embrace or hold at arm’s length. Check back with me in a few years to see how that’s working out.
Right now, I’m sad. I’ll probably be sad for a while. I’ll pretend like I’m not. I’ll take down the pictures I have of the two of them with a heavy heart. I’ll think about him at random times and wonder if he’s found someone new. And eventually I’ll feel glad to have known him and life will go on.