Thursday, November 5, 2009

Launching Kids

“Schoolmasters and parents exist to be grown out of.”
John Wolfenden, Sunday Times, London (7/13/1958)

My husband and I went on a date to see Phantom of the Opera again. And 10 days later, I still have Andrew Lloyd Webber’s powerful music and Charles Hart’s haunting words stuck in my head.

At intermission, I mentioned to my husband the father-daughter theme that was coming up. He scoffed at the idea, saying the musical was only about lovers. He shook his head in mock horror saying, “I’m married to a shrink!”

However, in Act Two, he began to see the theme he hadn’t previously caught in his four prior viewings of Phantom. Initially, when Christine sang, “Wishing you were somehow here again,” the reference is sufficiently vague that we are not sure whether the “you” is Raoul, the lover of her dreams, or the Phantom, the father figure in whose underground lair she has shared a life.

That’s usually the way it is when children leave home to go out into the world. They feel torn.

By the next song, the father-child theme clearly emerges when the Phantom sings to Christine “…wandering child, longing for my guidance.” And then, “Our games of make believe before are at an end . . . . “ And, “Past the point of no return . . . .

Singing forlornly of his life without her, “. . . no kindness, no compassion anywhere.” Then of “the infection that poisoned our love!” presumably referring to Raoul’s love for Christine that will take her away from the Phantom and his dismal existence without her.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

It is just as hard for parents as it is for their children when kids leave home.

As my wise and unselfish mother told me one of the times I left home, “Parents can’t hang onto kids.”

Those “helicopter parents” who do are selfish and haven’t done their job of getting their children and themselves ready for them to leave home and start their own life.

So when the season of graduations from kindergarten, middle school, high school, and college, and of summer weddings, blushing brides and earnest grooms, parents need to remember my mother’s sage words.

It is parents’ job to prepare their children to fly on their own while holding their place in the family. Then kids can come back for the emotional pit stops they need to eventually fly completely on their own.

For parents, it is a loss. And grief is inevitable. But if you have done your job well, your children will come back to visit. They will want to stay connected.

If you fight them, they will stay away at their own peril.

So learn to let go, as painful as that can be. That is the kind of parenting your kids need from you now.

Don’t make seeking their own destiny “the infection that poisons our love.”

We never outgrow our need for our parents. We just need them differently as we mature.

If you are having trouble letting go as a parent, or figuring out how to find your own way in the world, remember my offer of a **Free** half-hour of coaching by phone.

Feel free to write and take me up on my offer to I will need your name and email adddress to I can provide you with the time to call and a toll free number to reach me

Dedicated to your health and happiness,

Dr. Beth

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