Don’t Climb that Ladder! Living out the Cycle of Life and Love

I’ll love you forever. 

I’ll like you for always. 

As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

This is the  lullaby of a mother to her son in Robert Munsch’s beloved picture book, Love you Forever.

This mother crawls across the floor of her son’s  bedroom, and if he is fast asleep, she cradles him on her lap while reciting the lullaby.  She does this when he is a baby, a toddler, a 9-year old, a teenager, and ultimately an adult.  Yes, an adult.

Finally the mother is too old and sick to come to her son, so he visits her.  And as he cradles and rocks his mother, he repeats the familiar words, “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”

After his mother dies, the son goes into the room of his own baby daughter, picks her up from her crib, cradles her, and recites the lullaby.  And so the cycle continues.

Now, it is pure sacrilege to utter a word of criticism regarding this beloved classic. Maria Shriver has praised the book, saying she could not read it through without crying.  It was even featured in an episode of  “Friends”  when Joey gives a dramatic reading at Emma’s 1-year birthday, leaving everyone overcome with tears.

But as for me, my tears dry up at the scene where the mom goes to her adult son’s house.

She brings a ladder and climbs through his bedroom window!

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Publishers Weekly said about this part of the story, “Either it moves you to tears and you love it, or it makes your skin crawl and you detest it.”   Another critic said, “It’s either a touching account of a mother’s unending love or the ultimate helicopter parenting gone bad.”

I find this scene downright creepy.  But maybe that is because, if I’m truly honest, my heart’s desire is to do the very same thing.  I am jealous of those mother-daughter relationships where they talk or text each other multiple times a day.

But I also know that healthy detachment allows grown children to find their own path and parents to find their own lives while remaining cheerleaders, pray-ers, safety nets, listening ears.

So we should probably resist the urge to climb into our kid’s bedroom window in the dead of night.  Much as we want to.

That said, I am going in the garage right now to make sure the ladder is in working order and will fit in the back of our SUV.

Joy here: 

Where was I in 1986 when this children’s picture book was published?? I don’t remember it at all.  In fact, I never heard of it.  I was a bit busy at the time, having made the decision to move back to New York City and finding out I was pregnant with our 1st child.  Nevertheless, a book that so many people know and love (some hate) and that won The Parent’s Choice Gold Award, as well as selling 30 million copies worldwide, is hard to miss!

I listened to it being read on a You Tube video this morning. While sweet, endearing, and touching, it’s a bit of an over the top obsessive mother child story (in my opinion). Cradling your teenage child at 17?!!  Child services might be called in today!!!

I could picture SNL doing a skit on this and having a blast doing so, but I also smiled to myself.  It dovetailed so well with my thoughts on letting go and over texting my adult children.  What’s the right amount of space?  Will they reach out if they really need me or should I be happy that they are trying to work out their own issues?

I wonder how tall a ladder I would need to reach my daughter’s 2nd floor apt?  Kidding!!

Today’s Takeaway…

-A bond between a mother and child is powerful, and for most of us, lasts until our last breath of life.

-Know when to pull back and when to dive in.  It takes practice!  Maybe, by the time your children have children of their own, you’ll get it right!!

As always, enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

Once a Parent, Always a Parent!

I always thought I’d raise my children to adulthood and then they would be independent and live happily ever after.  Seriously, I got married at 23 so what did I know?!

What I have learned is that there is no magic number at which an adult child finds his/her way.  Each child is unique and reaches independence on a different timeline. (It’s not that I was so mature at 28 or even 30, but I had a husband, an in-house therapist, to vent to.)

Now I welcome the fact that my 2 adult children come to me with their problems, that they care what I think about anything!  I am blessed with 2 caring souls who value their mom’s opinion and advice (well, sometimes!)  They probably think that venting to me is better than keeping inside whatever is upsetting them.  Why feel like crap when you can lay it off on your mother?  You get off the phone feeling so much better.  Who cares that your mom wants to walk into oncoming traffic!

I am slowly learning that I can no longer jump into action mode, the way I could when problems were simpler to solve.  These  issues are beyond my expertise.  When a daughter is looking for a new job, I no longer know people who can set up interviews — as I did when my kids were fresh out of college.  I can’t get a bad boss off their backs or find new apartments.  My usefulness is limited, as is my checkbook!

I must remind myself  that my daughters are young women. They will learn by stumbling, getting hurt, being disappointed, not having everything they want or aspire to.  My job in raising them, in giving them a foundation from which to grow, is done.  It’s like sowing seeds in the ground, watering them, weeding them, and allowing them to grow. Every now and then, they may need a gentle touch, a little extra care, but for the most part, if I’ve done the job right, I need to let them reach for their dreams without me constantly being in their faces.  (I will reread that last sentence and maybe commit it to memory!)

My generation has been so involved with their children’s lives that when they grow up, it is hard to put on the brakes. We want what is best for them;  we want to see them happy, laughing, telling us good news  Duh! But our role in this phase of life is to be a sounding board, to be the person they come to for relief from whatever is burdening them.

But being a sounding board is tricky — the issues are bigger than someone not wanting to sit with them at the lunch table!   Recently one of my adult children needed to talk.  She is adapting to a new life style and adjusting to many bumps along the way.  She needed to pour it all out of her, even though all I could offer was a sympathetic ear — something I will make time for, no matter what else is going on in my life.  Till the day I die!

For we are Parents for Life!

And I for one treasure this role more than any other!   My ear is ready whenever the call comes!

With a glass of wine near by.

 

Today’s Takeaway:

. Parenting an adult child is drastically different than when our kids were little.  Don’t expect to be Supermom anymore, swooping in to save the day.

,Being a good listener and hugger may be the most important requirements for our adult children.  Never underestimate how much that can help when they call.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go

Thanksgiving is over and I’m driving my daughter home. The car pulls up to her apartment.  There’s a quick hug. “Keep in touch!” I say as she bolts from the car. “Yeah…mom…keep in touch.”

After holiday togetherness, I fight sadness with saying good-bye.  And I am fortunate that – presently- my daughter, son, and daughter in law live close by.

But they have their own lives.

As they should.

Why do I cling to moments when we are under the same roof?  Why is letting-go so hard?

Richard Rohr says that “All spirituality is about letting go.”  (I think he means LIFE itself is about letting go.)

Father Rohr would probably recommend that Clingers like me investigate the spiritual discipline of Detachment.  In The Power of Spiritual Detachment we are told more about this ancient practice,

Spiritual detachment is a process that frees us from whatever interferes with our spiritual growth. Detachment helps us avoid disordered inclinations and relationships with persons or things. Detachment can help us avoid negative memories and thoughts that keep us from God’s love.”

So what does this look like?

For me, it means letting go (or detaching) from that which I can’t hold on to – so that I can grab (or attach) to that which is eternal, to God Himself, who actually may not be repelled by my abject clinginess.

I am a slow learner though.  But I do know one thing..

When cars pull away from apartment doors. when hugs dispatch in front of  bustling United terminals – that’s when the practice of Detachment comes in handy.  That’s when I need to reach out and attach to the hand of God.

Who thankfully is reaching toward me.

 

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Barclay and I are so in tune with each other on this topic.  It is especially hard for me to let go as well. Like a true Cancer (my astrological sign) I am tenacious, a lover of home and hearth, and slow ( I mean slow!) to accept that life isn’t what it used to be!

I love being with my daughters and am blessed to have one of them living with us (still!  re-read “The Boomerang Daughter” for clarity) I know that there is a reason she is with me now.  It could be she will move to a foreign country for her career or marry someone from abroad. I have always believed that things happen for a reason, though we may not understand the why’s until many years later.  There is a bigger plan and if you believe in a higher being, then trust that the pieces of the puzzle will be revealed in due time.

Many of my friends who have grown children have been able to let go because their offspring are engaged or married. If they haven’t entered into that next phase of life (mine have not), then you (make that me) tend to see them as an extension of their younger selves. So my goal, as a Jewish mother is to hover ever so lightly, trying to loosen the reins as much as my personality will allow, and hope that they tell me when I have stepped out of line!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-It turns out that if you pay for dinner or for vacations, the whole family will come!  Something to think about!

-If a roll of the eyeball is directed at you, if your grown child has to peel himself away from your hug, if  a stray tear is seen rolling down your cheek – well, as Joy says, it’s time to loosen those reins lest your kids run, not walk, in the other direction.

-If you need some sappiness in your life, just park yourself in front of the Hallmark channel with a glass of wine in hand.

Disclaimer-We know this is what we should be doing.  This does not mean we’re very good at practicing it!

Enjoy the Ride

xox

Barclay and Joy