Today, in honor of Independence Day, I am posting a piece I wrote many years ago, when my children were young. It is part of my collected essays, "A Word in Edgewise: Life in between Raising Kids, Keeping a Home, and Staying Sane", (available for purchase on my website (hint, hint)!
It's honestly hard to believe that I ever felt this way. I mean, I love (and loved) my kids, but I love my independence in equal measure.
My children are healthy, admirable, productive adults, who just happen to be spending their holiday without me. I am so fine with that. I've been invited to my neighbor's house for a glass of wine and snacks with the other empty-nester ladies in my circle.
Viva la Independencia!
Independence Day -
Here it is, the Fourth of July, and like all good, fun-loving American citizens, my family and I are celebrating. With fireworks, picnics, and parades, we Americans rejoice in the fact that many years ago, our little bunch of colonies actually became independent from England. That nasty King George III taxed us unfairly, and essentially treated us like little children. But we broke that bond and go to be our own country, the United States of America.
Although I celebrate, I have to admit that lately I've been feeling that old King George got a bad rap. I mean, I' starting to empathize with the guy. There he is ruling over his "children" and then one morning, before he even has time to put on his robe and adjust his crown, he hears that these kids want to be independent. So, does he just raise his scepter and say good-bye? I should say not; he puts up a heck of a fight. A war, even; a war which of course he eventually loses. We celebrate, and he walks away sad, very sad indeed.
I too am hearing the sounds if independence rumbling through my house, and I too am ready to put up a fight. As I take a comb to my ten-year-old son's unruly hair, he pulls away, saying, "Don't comb my hair, I like it this way!" When I ask my fourteen-year-old daughter about her day, she says, "It was fine." When I press for more, she sighs, and says, "Mom, I really don't need to tell you everything about my day. Really , it was fine!" What happened to the little girl who came skipping home from grade school, telling m e all about the things that Ethan said, and all the ways that Sarah was naughty?
Yes, my children are declaring independence, and like good (or bad) King George, I am fighting it. I want them to want me. My job has been turned on its ear. Am I really just supposed to sip coffee and read the paper while my son gets himself ready for school, unassisted by me? Am I really supposed to trust that my daughter's day was fine, without my wise intervention?
Everyone tells me that this is the way it should be, that our job as parents is to teach children to depend on us less and less. Adults, by definition should not need their parents to solve their daily problems or help them comb their hair. So, if my children are saying (and they have been saying this since they were two years old), "I can do it myself!," it's a very good thing.
I try to put a positive spin on all this independent behavior by looking at the past. I remember when my daughter no longer needed me to push her on the swing. I was free to sit on the bench and read a book. That was a good thing. I remember when I did not have to lug a diaper bag to every darned outing. My son could actually use the bathroom. That was a very good thing.
Yes, every step toward independence that I look back on, whether it was my daughter finally learning to ride a bike without me holding on, or my son actually sitting down and doing homework without my constant assistance, has been very pleasant. I've had more time to do what I want to do, like reading, or watching a television program from beginning to end. It's been good for all of us. Maybe I should look forward and trust that their continuing journey toward complete independence (also known as adulthood) can be just as good.
I hope my kids don't have to start a new war with me. Because they will become independent, whether it is a pleasant process or a battle. And someday, just as we as a nation celebrate Independence Day, I to will celebrate my children's.
I am indeed celebrating.