Change Can Be Beautiful
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl
This past weekend my husband and I traveled to Boston to see our two kids – I mean young adults – who just moved in together. When we first heard that they were considering cohabitating, it surprised us a bit, causing us to reminisce and chuckle about their daily “spats” during childhood. But the more they talked about it, the more we realized that it would be an amazing opportunity for two brothers who are also best friends to spend a year together in Boston. So this weekend we drove a van load of their belongings to South End – their new home.
My husband and I have been empty nesters for four years, and we love our new lifestyle. Still we both miss our sons, and I think that they kind of miss us, too - or at least that is what I tell myself. Whenever the four of us get together we always have a blast. The boys revert to childhood antics, I react, and my husband just shakes his head and smiles. Inevitably there are tons of laughs and a bit of teasing, as well as serious life conversations. This weekend was no different. They introduced us to their virtual reality goggles, and both kids were quite amused watching my husband face crazy zombies and me ride a rickety roller coaster suspended high over an ocean. We went to amazing restaurants, hung out at a brewery in Cambridge, and helped them with the final stages of their move.
Then on the drive back to PA, I contemplated what to write for this week’s blog. Right around Hartford it became apparent what the topic would be – that was the moment it hit me that our kids are living independent lives quite separate from ours, and that my role as their mother has definitely shifted. It’s obvious that they have their own lives and no longer need us in the same ways that they once did. Sure, we can be temporary visitors into their worlds, but we can no longer expect to co-exist as we once had. And, like Viktor Frankl said above, we are challenged to change ourselves cause we certainly can’t change what is.
No tears with this statement – in fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way. But for me to maintain a healthy relationship with our grown sons, I can no longer behave the same way I did when then were younger. But change can be difficult. As humans we often fall into comfortable patterns, acting certain ways because we’ve always done so. Yet as our children mature and become self-sufficient, our roles need to shift. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be “mom” – the one who occasionally dotes on them, brings them their favorite foods, or buys them stuff for their apartment that I think should have (like a vacuum and a new toaster oven) - that is totally fine. But what I needed to change was how I viewed them as well as how I behaved in this newly emerging respectful, loving adult relationship.
I’ve had to let go of some controlling tendencies, you know the ones when you try to fix everything, solve their problems, and make their worlds perfect. If I’m still doing that at this stage of their lives, well, that’s just unhealthy. It’s not fair to them, and quite honestly, it’s unfair to me as well. And it would no doubt impact our relationship causing unrealistic expectations and perhaps resentment on both sides.
By changing myself, I can now enjoy being with our kids instead of trying to micromanage everything that they do. It doesn’t mean that I love or even like every choice they make. Nor does it prevent me from offering an opinion now and then. But what’s different is that I no longer expect them to do as I suggest. And sometimes that can be a hard pill to swallow.
I remember the first time that I realized that our oldest son was an independent human being - separate from me - with his own thoughts, wants, expectations, and dreams. Knowing that this is his life and that I’m already in the midst of mine helped me comprehend that it is not my job to have him do or be all of the things that I wish I had done or been. No, that’s not my right, not even as his parent.
As I am growing and learning more about the importance of traveling our own path and discovering our reason for being here, I know that my interfering with our sons’ journeys would only make it more difficult for them to find their way. Maybe “my way” is working for me, but it certainly isn’t the answer for them. Each of us is gifted with the ability to explore and eventually figure out why we are here on this Earth. Why would I attempt to take that away from them?
And as I’ve become more aware and present, I’ve noticed how smart our kids are. I’m not talking about academics… instead I’m referring to real life intelligence. They both possess incredibly strong skill sets that I never saw before (probably because I was only looking at them as they used to be not as who they have become). Plus, they’ve developed unique interests and hobbies, constantly testing themselves and their abilities. But most importantly, our sons are kind, honest men. While I may still see a glint of those little boys who would exhaust me mentally, emotionally and physically, both have matured into adults who we honestly enjoy being around. What more could a mother want? (Disclaimer… they are certainly not perfect - none of us are - but it’s amazing watching them transform over the years.)
So that’s why I’m so open to our changing relationship. In fact, it’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. Our sons are independent beings embarking on their own journeys – separate from ours, but still connected at the roots. While we live six hours apart and cannot see each other as much as we like, we are always there for each other – to support, nourish, celebrate, and counsel. It goes both ways. In fact, I now have two more trusted adults that I can go to for advice. Oh how life goes full circle…
So if you find yourself in a situation that you aren’t able to change - like watching your kids become independent beings- what can you alter about yourself to make things more manageable? You may discover that making a conscious change or two will give you something even better than you had beforehand. Remember, nothing ever stays the same. The only constant in our life is change. And the more gracefully we can accept this fact, the better able we are to deal with life’s passages.