My nest is emptying, though not empty yet. My son the 20-year old student lives with me still — why not; the house is too big and the school is in the city. We’re both busy busy busy as one must be in 2014, with work and school and in his case, the gym and preparing endless protein-packed meals to support his fitness lifestyle.
We’ve become more like roommates really in the past few years. I didn’t notice the shift happening while I was underwater from a protracted dying marriage and the aftermath of all that. As a sensitive child who had suffered greatly from my own parents’ dysfunctional relationship (like most of us) and my father’s alcoholism (like many of us), my going-in perspective as I became a parent was to spare my own precious child from as much of the adult shit as possible. Because after all, it certainly isn’t the kids’ shit, although as beneficiaries, they are left to ‘pay it forward’ in their own adult lives.
So back to my parenting style. Vigilant while trying not to stifle autonomy (doubt I was good at that). Exposure to as much opportunity as possible without overwhelming or terrifying. Holding personal excellence up as the standard, rather than beating the crowd. At home, refusing to fight with my ex in my son’s presence. After his father left, refusing to bad-mouth him and even standing up for him (‘he’s still your father, he’s human like the rest of us and you need to respect him…’). I would, I pledged to myself, protect my son from the ugliness of the adult world.
But as I navigate through this unforgiving stage of life, there is no hiding from his wizened eyes. No protecting him from my own flawed fallibility.