As Mary and I lay the groundwork and planning for her to move to the US and for us to spring into the next step of our adventure there, we (or more to the point, SHE) is dealing with another concept surrounding freedom: that of leaving the physical proximity of her children. This has brought up some friction within the family dynamic and some interesting observations from me, as an outsider with no history among them.
First, there is the concept of just how much friction there has been. To me, it’s way minimal! Mary seems to feel it as a very strong, emotion-laden upheaval, but she only has her perspective to go by. Other examples of family separation that I have seen, and experienced myself, have been more traumatic. But Mary’s feel of how it plays on her own emotions, has showed her just how strong her beliefs (and self-judgments) still have a hold on her as her children move towards freedom.
My own multi-step migration from home went through a short explosion of drama when I was 25 and back in the nest for a short time after dropping out of college. At the time I was working for Home Depot, a GREAT company to work for, and one where I was highly valued, as I had already survived a couple of rounds of layoffs at my store. My mother, recently divorced from my father, came to me with an ultimatum: go back to school or I was kicked out. It’s funny, looking back from this moment, I’m fascinated with seeing again how powerful beliefs are, and in that moment, a very silly (looking back) and highly limiting belief kicked in which changed the course of my life. That belief was: “I can’t live in San Diego on what I make.” Which was a ridiculous thought! But it was also a very STRONG belief in me at that moment. I felt trapped. I couldn’t stay with what I was making, but going to back to Humboldt (State University, my college) meant going back to a place where there were NO JOBS and I hated the lack of money I always had to deal with up there. Soooooo……I used profanity in anger in front of my mother—for the only time in my life! “FUUUUUUCK!!!!” It was generalized from a sense of powerlessness, but it still remains one of only 5 times in my life that I used profanity in anger. So I chose to quit my job (much to the surprise and disappointment of my supervisor) and went back to school. Doing so led DIRECTLY to two still-existing, happy marriages (neither of which was mine-LOL!) that have resulted in 5 wonderful children! Yet another example of something that seemed “terrible” in the moment that led to positive outcomes.
And it’s that belief that I hold that lets me watch, and occasionally participate in the dynamic of Mary’s family. Everyone, at some point in their life, moves out. We can perceive it as perfect timing or disastrous—that’s up to us. But I believe that each person in THIS dynamic has all the tools to choose the best decision for themselves and to create a great next step…even if THEY don’t. I’ve been through it. My kids moved out. There was drama. There was strong emotion. We got through it. And I had fewer choices to offer them than Mary and I have to offer to her kids now. As words are expressed between them, often I find that Mary HEARS more than is actually SAID. We’ve talked about this, and, because of her history with her kids, and things they have said to each other in the past, plus the self-judgments that Mary sometimes still holds about seeing herself as a “bad” parent, on several occasions I’ve watched her add judgmental words to her recollection of what one or another of the kids has said that weren’t actually spoken. I know because I was there. The really cool thing is that we snuggle in bed and talk about these things and come across what beliefs she is holding that cause this so that she is able to then let go of them.
Love. Guide. Let Go. These are the overall steps in parenting from Bears’ (Barry Neil Kaufman, co-founder of The Option Institute (OI)) teachings. By the way, there’s an AMAZING set of CDs called the Parenting Protocol that I just have to tell a quick story about! I was working in the marketing department for OI when the Parenting Protocol 5-CD set first came out. As part of our duties, we would listen to the new CD sets when they came out to make sure the final version didn’t have any flaws, typos, etc. When this one came in and I found out it was priced at $155 for the 5 CDs, I said “Bears, I don’t care how good this is, NO ONE is going to pay $155 for it!” Then I listened to it. WOW!!! I mean I LOVE the teachings there and the CDs are great, but this set is just AWESOME—the BEST! And the next time I saw Bears I said “It’s underpriced!” I sent a set to my mom since she still has issues with her grown kids that I thought would be helped by the concepts in it, and it has since been listened to by my siblings, who have school-aged kids, and who still think I’m quite WEIRD with all this being authentic all the time and being happy no matter what happens that I do. So you KNOW it must be good if they’re listening to their goofy brother’s CDs! (If you are interested in this set–and I highly recommend it–you can find out more here: http://www.option.org/custom:cds-and-dvds,single,407 )
But I digress. The loving and the guiding of our children we tend to do pretty well. It’s the letting go that tends to be the biggie. Somehow the concept that these sweet critters that we can remember taking their first steps and having their first sleepovers are now going to be on their own without our control or protection tends to bring on a LOT of fear in parents. Mary is no exception, although she is profoundly more equipped to deal with this than most parents, since she is aware of beliefs and how they affect her responses to these situations as they come up….eventually….Being up at 3 AM and worrying because her daughter might be getting into the car of a friend who’s had some beers can keep her awake. I do my best to help her by dialoging with her and pointing out that she has GREAT kids who are much more aware of the things they do and the beliefs they hold than almost anyone their age, and, sooner or later Mary is going to have to get used to the fact that the decision to do something like that belongs now to them. Let it go. And so she does, sometimes little by little, sometimes in big leaps to the finish.
I personally see her kids as wonderfully well-balanced between intelligence, self-reflection, and inspiration, with a wonderful sense of recklessness still hanging around in some instances! And I LOVE that! What’s life without a little recklessness? Squeeze that lemon!
I told Mary at the end of our last 3 AM discussion that even if she wasn’t sure yet, that I KNEW she was a great parent. She asked “how can you know???” I told her “because you have GREAT kids.” Love. Guide. And now it’s time to let them go and find their own True Freedom. Even through all the drama. A family is just like a rose: the only way for it to reach its most beautiful self is when all the petals have moved away from each other, while always remaining connected at the center.