You can’t fire me, I quit.

I don’t know who originally said that, but you know the feeling when you get it.

It’s over.

It’s actually an agreement — a place where there is accord. Neither party wants to be involved anymore.

That’s where I am, where a lot of us are with our adult children.

Then there’s love to consider. And need.

And respect.

How do we work these together? My method of throwing them all into the blender and switching it on high had predictable results.

We all got bloody.

And angry. There were skirmishes, hurt feelings, moments of silence, resentment and more.

My adult children do not want my advice. And in this period of transition, I’m not sure what they want. For me to listen without responding? For me to listen and reflect back to them what they are saying? For me to listen and then shift the conversation? For me to approve of everything they say and do?

What about my needs? I have an increasingly strong need as I get older not to speak to people who are not listening. Is there a place for me in these relationship that are evolving? Is it really evolution to act on the desire to remind a 19 year old to say thank you? I’ve faced it — if my daughter doesn’t know to say that by now, she’ll learn it if she needs to learn it.

Need and love — what’s the relationship there? Since I’m no longer needed for advice, what am I needed for? Just as they’ve outgrown any need for me to wipe their noses or their behinds, or doing their laundry, or enforcing bedtime, they’ve also outgrown their need for me to remind them to say thank you or to give advice that is unasked for and unwanted.

So what is the need? Is there one?

Is there ever going to be an expectation that a parent/offspring relationship is like other relationships? Is that even what we really want?

What I’m quietly and mostly patiently being led to is this: they want to be heard. And they want to be heard by someone who has known them all their lives. Their desire for tactic approval, not of their actions or words, but of them as people is more powerful with a parent than almost anyone else in the world.

Come on, we know this to be true.

I’m 55-years-old and I still rise and fall, if not live and die, by my mom’s approval of me. I’m lucky enough to have a mom who has always been a cheerleader. I know we don’t all have that. Many of my friends, many of you, have had to find a way to get around wanting or needing that approval because of difficult relationships with your moms. But when that’s the case, when we go without our parent’s approval, the residue is very often resentment and sadness.

We want to be seen. We want to be heard. Especially by our parents.

And it turns out for me, especially by my children too.

They are teaching me that lesson. That I want to be seen and heard by them. Not only as their mother, in that very specific and enormous role, but also as a person, separate from them. Capable of hurt feelings, joy, excitement, sadness; seen as a whole and complete person, not as the one dimensional view they saw as children.

I have quit mothering my daughters in the way that I have mothered them so far. Part of mothering was accepting certain behavior, language and actions that they have outgrown. And so I no longer will accept from them what I did when they were 10, 13, 15 or even 18; a certain strain of selfishness that was age appropriate. I was the adult, they were the children, it was about them.

I expect respect of a different sort from them now, (dangerous word, expect) and it is delivered, most of the time. It is expected right back from me and it is deserved. I treat them with the respect and kindness that I offer to any person that I love and with whom I want to be in a relationship. We are all expecting and insisting on a higher level of being, with ourselves and each other.

We rarely yell at each other anymore. If ever. There are still occasionally tears, hurt feelings and resentment. When there are though, typically now we are not accusing each other of things, we are looking at what we are bringing to the party.

As I expect and insist on respect, so do they. As I acknowledge that there are certain ways of being that I cannot accept, so do they say that to me.

You can’t fire me. I quit.

And from the exquisite inferno and the ashes of these old relationships, rises the mystical phoenix. It is truly miraculous to discover and explore these new relationships borne from the sacred parent child relationships that have come to completion.

It is a relief to be out of a role that no longer fits. That is real and true. It is also bittersweet. That is also true.


Lisa Rosenthal writes PathtoFertility and GayParentsToBe: blogs that focus on reproductive health, conception, family building and fertility past conceiving children.
Reach Lisa on twitter at Lisa Rosenthal@RosenthaLisa

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