I don’t know what my two children are up to this week-end. I’m fine with it – I think. It’s how we have raised them – I think. So why the hesitation? Isn’t it exactly how I wanted it? Isn’t it exactly how they want it?
Our nomadic family of four was tight when we lived under the same roof – even during the children’s teenage years. We were able to have breakfast and dinner together as a family nearly every day as my commute was short. I didn’t have to spend the best hours of the day – mornings and early evenings – in the company of tired commuters, but could be with my wife and teenage children. Sometimes, the daily family meals were rushed with everybody moving quickly towards work, chores, and homework. Often the discussion would flow freely, and our teenagers would entertain us with stories, opinions, and music. And a few times the news was very difficult. The first symptoms of what proved to be a chronic medical condition were revealed by one of them over dinner. An unbearable memory, but shared.
And so I became their coach. Working with them on their plans for high school and university. Helping with the daunting process of organising international education. Trying not to steer, and trying to help them find their own path. Setting out the options, but leaving them the choice. Not sure if I was any good. We’ll see what they say in the future, but the early feed-back is decent. I loved doing it, and I got to enjoy my teenagers and got to know them in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if my intense work and travel during their early years had continued.
And then one day the coaching ends, and they start playing the game on their own although I am still one of the go-to persons for successes and in particular for challenges and set-backs. I am no longer coach, just a parent who hurts when my child hurts; a parent who wants to take the pain and suffering when there are medical issues rather than see your child suffer.
But I know that my wife and I prepared our children to be independent and to live their adult lives with the inevitable mix of success, happiness, pain and challenges. Ii is said that you are never happier than your unhappiest child. Is that fair to my child, and is it fair to me? Should I feel guilty when I have had a good time only to learn later that my child was struggling at the very same time? Am I codependent or simply a caring parent?
I struggle with these questions, but accept it is not black or white. I push the guilt away, and accept that the magic burden of parenthood is forever. I am a parent and will always feel the pain of my children, but I also have a responsibility to myself, my wife, and the children to live my life in full. And let them live theirs without having to worry about their former coach.
Let them live, and then live.