behaving yourself. . .
I’ve had an interesting recognition today. As I reflect and write about women my generation being hidden from themselves due to the culture we grew up in (see my other blog, www.uncommonhours.org); or due to the amount of time we spend raising a family, it hasn’t occurred to me as intensely as today that one of the ways that children, or progeny, grow up and become individuals is to leave home. What I mean by that is that they are so attached to you and your protection that one of the only ways they can grow up is to rebel completely and denounce your parenting forever. Sometimes “home” means you as a mother, once and for all. This primordial separation occurs sometimes benignly but often with harsh finality as well. That’s how much you mean to them, the good, the bad and the ugly, as they say.
This is a story that has been around forever. Parents who love too much, over-protecting and wanting their kids to be free of hurt and to help them whenever it’s needed. Kids who depend on that help, support and nurturing and resent it at the same time, knowingly or unknowingly. People sometimes think the biggest hurdle in life is to get your kids into college and out of college, educated and ready for life. Anyone who has been through it knows that this idea is sadly mistaken: that the hardest years of all are those from the mid-twenties to, let’s say, forty-five or fifty. THAT’s when we look for our place in life; looking for work that is meaningful and remunerative; finding the right partner, perhaps more than one or two before the right one comes along, or not at all; raising children which becomes all-consuming while trying to do the other things already listed. It’s the hardest part, at least it was for me, because you think you know what you need to know. But that comes later. In fact, it comes so much later that it’s laughable, once you get there, around the age of fifty. That’s when you really know how little you know, relax and begin to enjoy life a little bit. That’s how long it takes for some of us.
Anyhow, the internecine struggle to become yourself and to behave in a way that reflects that truly takes a long time. Lots of railing and fretting and trying new things on, like new looks in the way you wear jewelry or dress. How you decide you really want to eat: part-vegan mostly, for example or how your hair looks. You do things to be like your mother and you do things not to be at all like your mother. It comes and goes in waves. People say that sometimes you are not free to live your own life until your mother, or your parents have died. I hope it doesn’t take my daughters that long because I’m in my own way living more like myself than ever before. And it’s awhile since I was fifty.
Realizing that this large cycle is the stuff of human nature, life immemorial, and that fate didn’t pick on us to perpetrate these kinds of life cycles helps when we feel we, as individuals, have failed in some gross way. If we have been sincere and tried to do the right thing most of the time, it’s time to sit back and watch the panorama of life and family unfold. It’s kind of a relief in a way not to be at the heart of things anymore.