Children at the Center #1
“My Children are my world. They are the center of my universe.”
I cringe when I hear parents say that. It’s not because I don’t understand what they mean, because I do. When those little boys and girls are born, you see your image and your husband or wife’s image reflected in their faces, their expressions, and their mannerisms. It is impossible to resist being drawn into their world, and making them the center of yours. Your heart literally melts when that little face looks up at you and smiles. You determine in your heart to do everything in your power to give that little gal or guy the best life possible.
That is natural and good. Every healthy and normal parent experiences such overwhelming emotion. They should!
But, I still cringe when I hear parents say, “My Children are my world. They are the center of my universe,” especially when the children have gotten older. Here’s why. Bonnie had her first child when she was an older teenager. She missed out on having a first year of college, dorm parties with classmates, and spending long weekends at the homes of her girlfriends. When her high school friends left for college, she stayed home to care for her daughter, and soon after other kids.
That is ok! Even most of her friends who went off for school eventually married and had children. They just waited a few more years to start. For Bonnie, though, the loss of missing out on those older teen experiences was hard to accept But, for awhile she could forget the pain because she had something new to celebrate: the center of her universe, her precious baby daughter.
Bonnie worked hard to be a good parent. She was, except that it was hard for her to allow her daughter to grow and transition from one stage to another. It became especially difficult when her daughter was in high school and had her friends over. When they stayed up to watch late movies, Bonnie joined in, trying to function more as a teen friend than as an adult parent. It was probably unconscious, but through her daughter Bonnie was actually trying to create some of the teenage experiences she had missed out on years before. Bonnie’s daughter was her best friend, her pal, her center.
Then the daughter graduated, went to college, and never returned home again. Christmas and spring breaks were spent at the homes of college buddies, and summer always found her working in another city. Bonnie’s daughter couldn’t take being the center of her mother’s universe, and she broke away the only way she knew how.
This is a sobering story. Not all stories of having a child as the center of our universe will end so sadly. But, this story is not without its redeeming features, too. Bonnie learned something from the experience and gave her other children some room to grow up and mature, and even move away. Ironically, by loosening the grip on her younger children, she has been able to enjoy relationships with them even as they moved through the teen years and into adulthood.
To a great extent our children are our world for many years. Their needs determine much of what we do until they reach age eighteen. But, we must let them reach age eighteen, and then move on. It’s tough. But it is normal and natural. Even the pain we feel when we drive off, leaving them at college a great distance from home, is a necessary part of the distancing process that allows them to blossom. It also allows us, the parents, to continue the investment we made years ago in the other parent of that child: our husband or wife, a relationship we have enjoyed with them for many years, and can now enjoy with them in a new and fresh way again.