Neighbors: This is a unique chapter indeed. Prior to boarding school, which began when our daughter was sixteen, she spent most of her time out of school with her parents. In the last five years, ten months of the school year and five weeks in the summer our daughter lived four hours away, eight total round trip. And now she is our neighbor, a twenty-minute drive, door to door, which is keeping me very busy.
Seven of Fourteen: Since our daughter moved into her apartment on August 1, I have been in her company seven of the fourteen days. We have dined out on three occasions with friends and family in celebration of her new home and life. I participated in the welcome festivities; I attended her Pegasus riding class this past Saturday. And yesterday I went to her apartment to console her on the loss of her friend, though I was the carrier of the tragic news the day before when we lunched with cousins. Her brother came to comfort and cheer her up as well. In fourteen days, I have been with her seven times. I can’t say that this is good or bad, just busy.
Condolences: Tomorrow we agreed to meet to write her deceased friend’s family a condolence card. She liked that idea and I think it does give her a focus for her grief. In her Ridgefield life there are no former classmates to share this loss, which leaves her a bit adrift and struggling. I am relieved that she is near enough for us to offer some direct comfort. On the way back from a yoga class with her apartment-mate, she called to tell me she was still so sad about her friend and thanked me for helping her with her “sadness.” Actually I was surprised and touched by her gratitude. It is a knee jerk for me to rush in, often too quickly, to solve a problem and erase a pain (as if one could), for both our children. It is easier in some ways to do so for her, though I am not sure I am any more successful “erasing” her pain than that of her brother’s, but because she is less autonomous and in settings where parents just walk in and arrange their children’s lives, I can have the illusion that I am doing something. (By the way, as a psychotherapist I do know that our children need to work through their pain. Using erasers just doesn’t work. I’ve tried it.)
A Troublesome Dichotomy: I am often troubled by this dichotomy. After a certain age, typical kids won’t tolerate what special needs kids have to put up with, major interference from parents. I am never sure if I appropriately facilitate our daughter’s emotional life (facilitating usually involves alerting support staff; not always necessary as our daughter has become a skilled self-advocate) or exploit her weakness to ease my anxiety. Yes, I do struggle with this…issue. I want to leave her with the assurance that she is O.K. There is a selfishness in that need. I am thinking about me. I want to walk out of the door free of worry. So I stay around until the time that I think she is O.K. Hovering. That hideous mother-hover deal. Delusional thinking? In some ways yes. With so-called typical adult kids, I don’t think you can have that luxury. They throw you out. Or should. Mom, take your anxiety about me home with you and fix it yourself. I’m busy!
Postscript: I capture that image best when I recall my son, in middle school, referring to one mom as “always there.” “Where?” “Always there in the hall.” Is that me now, in the hallways of my children’s lives? Oh my poor kids! Honestly, I don’t want to be there. So go home. That’s the role of husbands and fathers, to escort their wives/mothers’ of their offspring, out of the buildings of their children’s lives. Time to go! My husband is good at that.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011