The above twin photographs are of two of my children taken twenty years apart. All their lives I have fretted and worried and sweated and strived on account of them. When they were small it was the food, the baths, the clothes, the school and the streets that kept me busy and worried. Now, thank goodness I don’t have to worry about those things. But then there are new worries and new anxieties and new formulas I have to think out for their well being. I did indeed bring them up to be independent so that I may be free of anxieties through the course of their adulthood. They of course want to be left alone and not have a fretting dad on their heels. The problem is not theirs. The problem is mine. When do you let go, if at all?
Time was when parents could let go of their children and turn their attention to other interests like gardening or the house or even to a series of endless holidays. As the children grew, the parents’ stamina also inevitably slowed down with old age and they narrowed their vision to concentrate more on their health and their own infirmities. But the times, they are ‘a changin’. The boomer generation in their avidness to never give up, are motivated to live healthily and long and are more interested in the comings and goings of life around them. They are bringing the extraordinary energy of the ’60s to the present day. Just look at Mick Jagger!
What I am getting at is, given all my interests, doing yoga, studying Chinese, listening to Jazz, following a course on Scandinavian Film genre and going on extended holidays, I still have time to worry about my children. I worry about them commuting late at night from their places of work, I worry about their health when they have to work a 14 hour day every day, I worry about their job insecurities, I worry when they tell me they are stressed; in fact they are never out of my mind. One reason for this is the world is less secure than it used to be. There is no job security for life anymore like there was when I used to work. Another reason is the fact that young adults these days are tech savvy and move smoothly in the cyberworld but they still could do with the wisdom of old age in practical affairs such as dealing with a recalcitrant car or the pros and cons of moving or buying a house, of how to approach problems at work, of how to deal with middle-aged managers who are guarding their seats and their jobs with their lives. The list goes on, and thankfully my children would approach me with their problems and I find myself actively engaged with them in their life struggles, those that they deign to share with me of course.
I will have it no other way. I am glad I could be of use as long as I have the energy. But I am only ruminating on the changes that are taking place in our society as a whole and I am thinking of the change of attitude we have to take towards our children. Time was when children grew up and left home you bid them goodbye and turned back into your living room to wait for them to pay their occasional visits. Now with the advent of the mobile phone and social media you are never far from them. You talk to your children from across the world on an almost daily basis and what’s more you can see their faces. You can see their worried brows, you can see their grey hair starting to appear from seven thousand miles away!
So there! The anxious parent is not given an opportunity to stop being anxious. I for one, am lucky to have my children living not too far away. I see them and it only causes me pleasure and no worries. They are good enough not to foister their worries on to me. I cannot stop though being fiercely protective of them. What is different from when they were small is, you could not give them a cuddle and kiss their worries away anymore. Their problems now, if they have them, are adult sized and you could only stand by and wring your hands and watch them cope as best they could.
A parent never stops being a parent. I hark back to the time when my frail mother in her eighties tried to make me cut my long hair and shave my mustache off and get me to look as pretty as I was when she had me on her lap all those years ago. All I could do was give her a hug and with tears welling up, whisper to her, “but mother, I am nearly fifty seven”.
And so it goes…