Holding On and Letting Go…

From the time we are born, we begin the fundamentals of relationships beginning with our parents and ultimately siblings and extended family.  Those first interactions are with the soul who has given us life—our mother.  Close by under the best of circumstances is our father.  Together, they teach and mentor us as we make our way through childhood.  If they’re fortunate and been on top of our upbringing, we emerge into the world as responsible adults. It is a fragile formula and something like Oklahoma weather in May.   

Being a parent has never been easy.  It is easily the toughest job we will ever have with the greatest responsibility, and certainly the most thankless—and that’s okay.  We’re not in the parent business for gratitude.  As parents, we are supposed to stand by our children through the toughest of times—keeping them on course to where they don’t become a burden to society. 

If you bring a child into this world, you must first be willing to accept responsibility for them, and that’s a tough one to chew in the hardest of times, especially if you’re a parent with a teen out of control.  As your children grow into adults, you have to begin letting go and allowing them to make their own mistakes and bask in their own success or misery. It is the only way they will ever learn how to be responsible adults. Pain teaches…  It is always good for you to be there for your kids as an advisor, especially in adolescence.  However, in letting them make their own decisions, allow them to make and accept responsibility for their own mistakes. 

What hurts the most as a parent is watching your kid go through being hurt because what hurts them surely hurts us.  My wife and I are late-in-life parents.  We adopted our son, Jacob, at birth at 50 and 52 respectively.  It is remarkable how many people comment on our grandson, only to be politely corrected that he is our son. 

At 52, I was more ready to be a father than I was at 32 when my first born arrived in 1988.  I had a lot to learn about being a father at 32 and had a long way to go. There was so much I didn’t understand about what a child needs.  I made a lot of terrible mistakes as a father—and as a long-distance father two-thirds of a continent away, huge mistakes and erred judgment—which did indelible damage to my kids because they always needed me close by. 

I made a tough career decision in 1994 that moved me in Los Angeles where a career decision should have been more a personal one—where I would have put my kids ahead of my career. My kids remained in Tennessee.  A divorce followed, further straining an already fragile relationship.  No one has ever said on their death bed they wished they’d spent more time at the office.  The deepest regret has always been not having spent more time with the family.

No matter how much you love your children, distance puts incredible strain on the relationship you have with them.  As a faraway parent or grandparent, you miss a lot of important moments in their childhoods though you do manage to make a few of them. If you and your ex have an adversarial relationship, kids suffer the most. 

As a long-distance father, it was never been easy for me to watch my kids growing up far away.  They’re all grown now, two of them with children of their own.  It is surely something watching them raise their kids and watching another generation unfold.  And, no matter how much I want to be a part of their lives, it will never be the same 1800 miles away.  I never kid myself.  I am little more than a figurehead grandfather in faraway California.  I have to stay on top of video chats with them, which don’t happen as often as I’d like between my schedule and theirs.  

Chances are good you’re a long distant parent or grandparent.  You understand how challenging it is emotionally to miss your kids and grandkids.  If you have a tight budget and can’t travel to see them as often as you’d like, rely on technology to keep you close.  There are video chat apps that enable you to stay close to those you love.  What’s more, these apps are largely free which means you’ve run out of excuses.

I’ve learned with my kids not to hover over them as adults.  I know they’re on the same trip I was as a young man.  Sometimes, there just isn’t the time to call or write. Life gets darned hectic.  A child is but the one relationship you as a parent have where your child grows up and goes out into the world—without you.  This is where you have to be strong enough to know how much your child loves you—and find the courage to let them go.  If you hear from your kids on a regular basis, you are fortunate because not everyone has that. There are parents who wonder where their grown kids are – and that has become the norm. 

I’ve said this before—whether it is your child, a friend, or a member of your family, it is always best to set them free emotionally and see where it goes.  If you hear from them, you have a healthy relationship.  If you don’t, you were never connected to begin with. It is never good to remind anyone to think of you.  Healthy relationships don’t require constant reminders.  They just happen naturally. Let them know what they mean to you, then, step back and see if they circle back to you.

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