Stones Upon Stones

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them.
They move on. They move away.
The moments that used to define them are covered by
moments of their own accomplishments.

It is not until much later, that
children understand;
their stories and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories
of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones,
beneath the water of their lives.”
― Paulo Coelho

There have been many things written about the relationship between parents and their children but these few lines encompass so much of that journey, simply because it moves across decades of change.

Parenting is a lifetime voyage and I don’t think we fully realize that when we’re young parents. We’re too busy being in the moment of day-to-day craziness to think about having twenty or thirty or forty-year old children.

Then, a couple of breaths later, we’re there.

How we handle that transition is encapsulated in the first line of Paulo’s words. More times than not, we have difficulty letting go. As young parents we don’t believe that will be an issue. Idealistically, we plan on giving our children roots and wings and encourage them to live their lives as they see fit. But twenty plus years of habits are sometimes hard to break. We have spent, until it’s time to allow them to move on, the better part of our adult lives guiding them, instructing them, encouraging them and caring for their well-being. Our emotional investment in our children cannot be overstated, simplified or pushed to the curb because a certain age or time in their life has arrived.

So what do we do?

We try to adjust. We sit on the side and watch instead of instructing. We attempt to bite our tongues instead of questioning or suggesting. We try to not offer unless we’re asked and even then we temper our comments. Because of our life experiences, we sometimes see the mistakes well before they do and while our innate reaction based on years of protection come to our lips, we understand the lessons of learning to ride a bike without training wheels apply to adult life as well as childhood.

But it’s difficult to watch sometimes and even more difficult to remain silent because, as with most relationships, you just never know how a positive suggestion or comment might be interpreted. With children, those feelings or concerns are magnified to the highest possible levels for all the obvious reasons.

When you become a parent, it’s a lifetime commitment. It never leaves you, it just changes direction, places you on the sidelines instead of on the playing field. Your concerns/worries are always with you but your voice during those times are sometimes held in, and I suppose that’s how it should be. Still, it’s hard to not give in to your natural instincts, of protecting and defending, regardless of age..

There is an old Yiddish saying, “LIttle children disturb your sleep, big ones, your life.”

 All children who become parents understand at some point. It never goes away.

41 thoughts on “Stones Upon Stones

  1. colinandray

    Being a parent of two children, both now over 40, the issues noted cannot be disputed but there must come a time when have to recognize that they no longer need a Mom/Dad in the traditional sense. I came to the conclusion many years ago that my two no longer wanted parental advice and guidance, but did need input occasionally from a mature adult. My goal then was to switch roles from loving Dad to loving mature friend. It was not an easy transition because it was necessary to fight against intuitive responses, but I was very successful with my daughter, and to a lesser degree with my son. The end result is priceless because they confide in me with many issues, and allow me to suggest solutions. If I had stayed as “Dad”, I would have had no idea what was going on in their lives!

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    1. George Post author

      I agree. We had the same transition. Our three daughters range from 31-42 and it was an interesting time. Like you, we receive phone calls with questions but it’s still difficult sometimes to not want to offer some free advice..:)

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      1. colinandray

        First thing I learned was never to give advice, but rather offer them suggestions. The difference is with suggestions,they ultimately are making the final decision. Not only can it secure self esteem, but it also teaches them ramifications of decisions and taking responsibility for same. If I give advice, then I either look good or bad depending on how it works out… and they learn nothing that benefits them personally!

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  2. Nurse Kelly

    So true, George, and so expertly written. You don’t have much experience with this, do you? lol
    Personally, I find the acceptance part of the changes more difficult than navigating my way through them. All part of letting go, I suppose. I’m usually so busy, I transition through things pretty well… but then I find myself saying, “When did that happen?” way too often! Time keeps marching on, that’s for sure. Happy August, by the way! 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      lol…just a little. My mind moves through the transition stage and accepts the changes pretty well but there is always that sense of wanting to guide them in the right direction. We’ve been very fortunate with our girls. Their heads and hearts are in the right place. Still, some parental habits are harder to break than others..:)
      Happy August, Kelly.😊

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    1. George Post author

      You’re so right, Jean. Each dynamic comes with a lot of history and is very different. Fortunately, we never had a lot of drama in our home but it is a very fascinating relationship topic.

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  3. vanbytheriver

    Wonderful insights you have here, George. That transition from parent to adult friend is an important one. Easy for some, so difficult for others. Funny thing…my kids never disturbed my sleep when they were young. I’m hoping they won’t make up for that fact as adults. Sweet post.

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  4. Nancy

    So insightful, George, and so relevant to my life at this very moment! I like to hope it gets easier as they get older but I bet it doesn’t.😊

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    1. George Post author

      I don’t know if it’s a matter of easier as much as it is different. I think every age presents some challenges in terms of adapting to their changing independence but as adults we need to take a bigger step back and become less of a parent, if that makes any sense.😊

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  5. Ann Coleman

    I remember when my children were young, and I honestly thought that I would have no problem “letting go” when they turned into adults. I was so wrong! You have so many good and quotable lines in this post, but I think the one that resonated the most with me was the sentence about how our emotional investment in our offspring is too strong to simply go away when they reach a certain age. I still feel every bit as connected as I ever did, but the difference is that I make myself step back and give them the room they need to function as independent adults. I try to stifle the advice and resist the urge to correct their mistakes. Mostly, I’m successful. Mostly.
    Thanks for a very timely and sensitive post, George!

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  6. Hariod Brawn

    It is indeed a lifetime’s commitment, George, as you say, and in accord with Plato, too: “No (wo)man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education.”

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  7. Kim Gorman

    A beautiful post, George. It really hit home for me. I love the poem you started with. Hadn’t heard it before. I learned the hard way that letting go is one of the hardest thing you will ever do as a parent, and the bravest. When my oldest son decided at age 15 he wanted to live with my ex-husband, I felt like I might die. Though I understood that as an adolescent boy he wanted to be closer with his father, for months after he moved out (literally a five minute car drive away), I felt like one of my limbs was missing. But I did my best to keep my mouth shut because I knew it was what he wanted and needed. Then when my ex moved to Florida about five years later, and my son once again decided to join him about a year later, I felt like I was losing him all over again. At the same time, he has lived on his own since moving to Florida (not living with his Dad, though they’re close), and isn’t that what we all want, for them to be independent and on their own? So now I go to Florida a couple times year, we talk on the phone, and on occasion he comes home for a visit.

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    1. George Post author

      I know many people whose children have moved out of state and I know how difficult it was, and is, for them to deal with the distance. In your case it must have added emotions. But your relationship seems strong and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters.
      Thank you, Kim.

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  8. roughwighting

    You are a wise man, George. Yes, I’m amazed at how quickly my young kids have young kids themselves. I’m amazed at how I still want to parent, but I know that I can no longer do that. I’m amazed at how good I’ve gotten at biting my tongue. I’m amazed that my kids do ask for my advice, but seldom do they take it. 😉
    Love the Yiddish quote.

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  9. automatic gardener

    Your post really spoke to me. My children have recently finished college and began adulthood. I thought it was going to be a breeze, as in I’m done. As you know, not necessarily. Once when I was in my late 20’s, I was moaning to an older women about not being married or having kids yet. Her reply was, don’t worry because when you have them, it will be for the rest of your life. I think about that advice a lot now.

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    1. George Post author

      It really is a lifetime commitment and it’s sometimes more frustrating as they get older than when they were younger. A little knowledge can be dangerous..:)
      You’ll work it out. Most of us do..:)
      Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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