Retire as a parent? Do we really retire as a parent? Are there retired parents in the sense I am writing about? I am sure you are wondering if after all that long silence, why do I come back with this?. Now is the time to think of myself as a retired parent. The loneliest thing I can think of right now. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean leaving paid employment. I am writing about stepping back from your responsibility as a parent and taking on the unpaid post of irritating adviser.
When do you stop agonizing over your child and simply let them get on with the experience of living? How do you watch them make mistakes, fall down on the job, and struggle to get back up? There comes a time when you just sit there and just pray. Get ready with the towel when they are about to spill it, but you must allow them to learn how to hold it.
Retiring as a parent is the toughest part of the job, it is your own final examinations. It is a nail-biting time, sleepless nights, when you bite back the words that jump through your mind but must not pass through your lips. Let’s play a bit of catch up so you know I have been through the game myself.
Remember all those times you dreamed about raising your own family? Yeah, you started with loads of enthusiasm. You did not mind the morning sicknesses when you had to evict almost your intestines because the new tenant in your life can’t stand water. Remember those dreams when you held a silent wistful conversation with your unborn child? I did, endless nights when I planned endless outings together just me and the child. It didn’t matter whatever sex, I was positive we were going to be the best of friends forever.
I remember infancy, the sleepless nights, feeling the anxiety of every ache, learning to croon to a child who was in pain and you had done everything. Doctors, nurses and your husband all assuring that the angel was going to be okay but your heart still raced.
You imagined all types of scenarios each one terrifying and then he closes his eyes and you notice he is sleeping and smiles in his sleep. You take a deep breath and utter thanks.
Do you remember school days? When you wondered why the teachers are determined to make your son think of you as some kind of idiot. I mean how could they call that subject mathematics for goodness sake? Those figures are for men planning to go to the moon. Your son takes pity on you and explains to you. Then you fall in love with him and quietly visit a teacher to give you private lessons, so you could help him with his homework. You get another education.
You have become used to being the center of his world until that world shatters when he starts talking about ‘her’. His eyes have a glow that signals the beginning of the end of the love affair. He is on his way out of the nest now.
Is it going to be an honourable retirement or is it going to be a stormy one?
Our children are offspring of a lot of combinations but most significantly, they are guests in our lives. We are guests too of the Creator in His Creation. That has nothing to do with whatever religion we pretend to have.
As parents, we have a set of rules we are to abide by, teach the child the working manual for creation and place him there capable and ready. Do we understand that bit? Teach, prepare and allow the child to get on with his own life? That is the job description really and there comes a time we are expected to retire as a parent.
Our success or otherwise is how much we have prepared the child. We note that the emphasis is on the preparation to live as a separate entity, not as an extension of ourselves.
What happens today?
The young man is no longer a child, but we don’t see that, we plan for him, call all our friends hunting for the elusive job for him, we plan the girl he is to marry, run his own household for him, in fact, we might even plan his thoughts for him.
At what point do we retire as parents and allow our children to get on with the business of being viable member of the community of Earth dwellers?
I am not done yet, I will be back.