The Empty Nest – A Different Perspective
I sometimes wonder, is parenting a thankless job? As parents, we give all the love our children deserve, we sweat day in and day out to make their lives comfortable, we keep a watchful eye over them always, ready to hold them should they falter. We forget our own comforts but make sure they are comfortable. We put our own interests on the back burner and make them the topmost priority of our lives.
Eventually, children grow into adults and fly away to find their own destiny. They get so engrossed in their lives that they are not able to give back to us what we gave them unconditionally – time and love. And we parents, end up feeling neglected, unloved, hurt from the thankless behaviour our children show towards us. Are the children really to blame, or is it us, the parents, who expect too much than they should? Do we, in the process of caring for the young ones, become too attached to them? So much so, that when they have grown wings of their own, we are simply not able to let go?
The children come into our lives as tiny little creatures, completely dependent on us for each and every need of theirs. We control their lives when they are small. By and by, as they grow up, they begin to take over the control gradually from our hands. In the growing up stages, we love it when they try their hands at independence. It makes us proud when our little one does something completely by herself.
We brag about it to our friends and encourage the child to do more and more. However, when the child blossoms into a young adult and ventures to take decisions of his own, based on the perceptions and opinions that he has formed by then, we strangely object. Especially, if their decisions are different from ours. Why is that so? Is it because we are not able to comprehend that those children are now independent human beings and not the hapless creatures who depended on us entirely a long time ago? Is it because we still want to be wielding control and influence over the children’s lives, even after they have become fully capable of owning the responsibility of their lives?
Wielding control does not only have to mean commanding each and every action of theirs. Even expecting the children to follow the same set of rules and philosophies that the parents follow and toe the line means inadvertently attempting to hold the reins of their lives. The zeal to shield the children from negatives of life is so much in us that we tend to forget that every mature human being has the right to take his or her own decisions and face the consequences of those decisions.
My son is still a toddler. So as of now, I am not at the stage where the empty nest is causing me sleepless nights yet. My post today though is prompted by the discomfort I see spreading in a number of mother-son relationships around me today. The mother and son are not able to see eye to eye and both agonise that the other is not treating them well. When I see them, I want to shake the mother up and tell her, “Let your son live his life the way he wants to. Yes, it would have been good if he followed the same set of rules as you do, but he does not. So let him be. Let him take his own decisions and be responsible for the consequences. He is an adult now, so let him be one. That does not mean he does not love you and you have to be sad for that. It only means that you have been relieved of your duty and now happily turn your attention towards your own life and let him lead his. He still loves you, and so do you, but let him be happy where he is, how he is”.
I want to also shake up the son and say, “She is your mother dude, for God’s sake, make her feel loved. You might differ in opinions from her, but that does not mean you cannot even converse pleasantly with her. She is entering the twilight of her life and now, all she wants is your love and care – explicitly expressed. That is the least you can do for her. Sit near her, talk to her, over and over again. Love is not a give and take game. Give her unconditionally now. She does not want your money. She only wants a caring word from you. Show her the respect and make her feel important. Why does that become so hard to give?”
Sadly, neither of my dialog will work, for in such situations, advice such as this will only fall on deaf ears. It will not change anything, worse, it will only antagonize me to both people. I look at my son and a lump forms in my throat. Will I too face the same situation tomorrow, when he is all grown up? I keep telling myself that when time comes I have to let go, but will I find it too hard to do? Will I too fall into the endless labyrinth of love confused with control and thereby allow the beautiful relationship with my dear son to go sour? I hope I don’t, and pray to God to give me the gift of detachment by then.
Parenting is somewhat akin to what Lord Krishna says in the Geeta – You only have the right to duty, and not the right to the fruits it will yield. It might be a thankless job, but we, as parents, have certainly not taken it up for the sake of the thanks.
Yamini is a software professional turned work-at-home-mom. Amidst her domestic responsibilities and a very demanding 2.5 year old son, she snatches time to write academic papers, freelance content, fiction and poetry. Her stories and poetry have been published in various online literary magazines and anthologies by Penguin Books and Cyberwit Publications. Yamini voices her thoughts now and then at http://myexpressionsandme.