What separates us from the animals? Ignoring our instincts? Illogical choices that actually put us in harm’s way? From drug abuse to staying in an abusive relationship, engaging in self-destructive behavior seems to be a uniquely human endeavor. (I know it seems like a deer purposely changes direction and makes a U-turn directly into the side of a moving car, but I’m guessing it is not suicide…)
Why do we sabotage our own happiness? What is the pay off? What monster are we feeding when we knowingly choose or encourage such behavior in others? There are plenty of people with degrees that make them qualified to answer these questions, but I’m not one of them. I just know that absent some kind of compulsive disorder, there is a payoff. What I do know is that if we really sit back and think about it, nobody consciously chooses suffering. Which leads us to today’s Mother’s Day Truth Bomb.
On a scale of one to ten, one being “Very uncomfortable” and ten being “Very comfortable,” pick your comfort level with the following statement:
When my children grow up, I hope they never need me.
Are you screaming, “One, One, One!!!!” at your computer screen? Why? Is it money you want them to need? Are you screaming “ONE!!” because you want them to get out of college and take a few years off reliving their glory days from your couch? Is landing a great job right out of college and a place of their own just not good enough for your kids?
Maybe you want them to need to call you and ask you how to do laundry. Or better yet, you want them to need to come home from college on the weekends because they need you to do their laundry. So you decide, or at very least, find a million reasons for not teaching them how to do laundry, or take them to the grocery store and teach them about lies, and the lying liars who write labels. And you never explain that they need to change the oil every ten thousand miles, etc., etc. There’s an old Italian saying, “Cook a man a meal, and he’ll burp; teach that same man how to cook, and he’ll pretend it’s too hard, which makes you feel needed, and you’ll do it for him.”
I could be wrong, but to me, it seems like the 18 years in which you live under the same roof is the logical time when you would teach them how to help themselves.
Don’t we all want to open that door someday and see our kid standing there in all his or her glory, and hear the words, “Hi, Mom. I’m just here to hang out with you because I love you!” and believe them?
As difficult as it may be to embrace the statement, “I hope my kids never need me,” we really don’t want them to need us; we want them to want us. I want my kids to have enough of their own money, enough of their own problem solving skills and enough motivation and desire to get along in the world without me.
Is there some kind of intrinsic value to needing someone’s help? I don’t think so, but maybe there’s a study out there that states otherwise. When tragedy strikes, and I don’t mean not being able to afford to go to Cancun for spring break, by all means, I want them to call. When their washer breaks the night before a job interview, or their engine blows up, I want them to call. When their boyfriend or girlfriend dumps them for the best friend, I definitely want them to call. When they tried everything they can think of to get the baby to stop crying at 3 a.m., I want them to call. I want to be there if and when they need me, but do I want any of these things to befall them? The answer, of course, is no. If they could not find their own way out of a tricky situation, pick up the phone and call. But I don’t want them to ever not be able to take care of themselves, emotionally or physically, or not know what to do in a critical situation. I don’t want them to need me. But I would like them to want me.
What parent wouldn’t love to have this phone conversation with their twenty-something:
“Hi, how are you?
“Great, now that I’m talking to you! How is (insert name of significant other here)?
“Huh? Oh, we broke up last week.
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Oh it’s fine. I’m enjoying hanging out with my friends again, and my grades are improving!”
Now, we might hang up the phone, feel a little sad and pet the dog. Dogs need us so they don’t starve. Husbands need us so they can find the ice. But the kids? Ideally, they won’t need us.
I hope my kids never, ever need me. After all, I won’t be here forever. What is sadder than the idea of your kid needing you for something – really needing you – and not being able to help them? One thing I’m definitely not comfortable with is the thought that they will really need me and I won’t be there. If you aren’t doing everything you can to make sure your kids don’t need you, and if you aren’t doing everything you can to make ensure that they will want you some day, ask yourself why.
What are you afraid of?