Being a parent is a constant process of letting go. Even shortly after birth, the process starts. You hand your precious newborn to someone else for a second. Will s/he drop your heir? Your newborn is crying in her/his crib. You don’t get there fast enough. Will s/he be forever traumatized?
Now your child wants to walk. So you clench your teeth as s/he falls and/or hits her/his head on the chair. You imagine the real probability of brain trauma.
Then we get to preschool or child care. The little one starts to cry as soon as you turn your back. You see serious bills at the therapist to treat separation anxiety. Worse still, s/he doesn’t cry. Your mind flashes two ways: Is your child a sociopath? Or did you do something wrong, where you’re not needed or missed? Do you need a new hobby or a pet to replace your child? Should you have another child so you can do it right this time?
Then come the beginnings of sleepovers and camping trips without you. You feel pride in not getting a call, but you’re so glad when they come home because you missed them.
One of my clients fretted at her son going to the Boys and Girls Club in the afternoon. She was worried about what he’d learn. Other children’s bad habits? What if he learned to play cards or gamble?
Puberty starts to stir the environment. Now we’re talking serious loss. Your child no longer looks at you for inspiration. Hillary, in the comic strip Sally Forth, has begun to discover boys and no longer needs her father, Ted.
Then the prospect of college looms for many. My personal and professional experience says that kids start thinking about that early, perhaps in their sophomore year in high school. By the second semester of their junior year, they’re in a college daze. Senior year can be a blur and a difficult time. You’re not there, except as a source of money.
And then they leave home, and what do you have? Relief and new fears. Will they study? Will they use drugs too much? Will they pick the wrong person? Will they drive safely? Will their friends drive safely?
It’s normal to have these fears — join the parent club. They won’t end till you pass from the scene. So, learn to let go. Seek solace in your partner, friends, and your own life. If you get too upset, talk to a counselor.