I have some very smart and wise friends. But one in particular stands out because he understands my struggles and has suggestions – not advice. And they are suggestions born out of experience, creativity and the recognition that our children can’t possibly see the world the way we as parents do so we should give it up and stop trying so hard.
For example, as I’ve shared ad nauseum with those who actually read my blog, I am deeply struggling with lovingly letting go of my oldest daughter. Hard as I try, every conversation eventually turns into a grilling about her college plans or some other facet of her developing future – the outcome of which I somehow magically think I can control. And from there the conversation takes a dive off a cliff that ends in tears, anger or both.
So my friend’s suggestion shared during one of our many “bike therapy” rides was to take my daughter on a mini vacation with only 1 rule – any and all conversations should be of her choosing and initiative. After almost steering into oncoming traffic I have warmed up to the idea. He said I need not be silent or distant, but rather, stop talking, dial down my intensity, and create space for her to build her relationship with me without the interruption of my agenda for her, us or her future. He told me I’d be surprised what I learn about her and from her.
For the past 3 months, my daughter has chosen to spend more time at her fathers, which admittedly was shocking at first and now just sad – but absolutely her right to choose. And, when I get past my own feelings I have to admit that I am proud of her for being brave enough to tell me what she needed despite knowing how it would make me feel. In other words, she chose herself and her own needs above her fear of upsetting me. And when you are child of divorced parents in particular, asserting your own choice is a big deal – because she sure as hell didn’t choose divorce. And, I don’t know about other people, but no matter how bad it was for me as a kid, I’d have gotten what I wanted in the end, but I sure as hell wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to be honest and forthright about it.
So, while I haven’t yet taken a trip with her, I have changed my behavior. I have called and checked in with her, sent her loving texts, and let her know where I am each day. And most importantly, I haven’t mentioned college in well over a month!
And, much to my surprise, last week, she asked me if I wanted to go have breakfast. It was slightly awkward at first because I didn’t do what I usually do and found that the less I said, the more room there was for her to share parts of her life with me – and it was really nice. We even went to a consignment shop next door and I watched this beautiful, growing daughter of mine weave her way through racks of vintage clothes, finding 3 items I’d not in a million years have picked out for her and buying them with her own money, all the while telling me about her college essay which is going to be about what music has meant to her.
I’m learning that, in the words of Frances Bacon, an English philosopher and philosophical advocate (no idea who he is but I like the quote)- “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom”.