Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Detachment Parenting

This post has taken all together too long to write. It's an apt metaphor though, everything takes longer than I think it will.

I didn't read many books about parenting, just the usual early stuff about habits of smaller children. What to Expect..., Penelope Leach and etc. Mostly I read them to calm my nervous ex-husband. I went mostly on instinct and logic and knowledge of my small subject. Nowadays I read bits and pieces online when specific issues arise with my teen. Back in the day when my kid was a baby and toddler I mostly watched people who had kids and paid attention to how they were with them and what the kids were like. I have been lucky, I have some really good parent examples around me, I learned much and I am still learning today as my friends kids turn the corner into fully individuated adulthood. My understanding of parenting has grown and evolved as I have gone along. I had no idea what an intense job it would be to raise the best child I could with the tools I had.

Parenting takes balance. I am pragmatic with my choices where my parenting is concerned. In the beginning I needed to be able to work while still caring for my kid in a positive way. I altered how I approached work. I learned to conceptualize solutions during lazy afternoons following a toddler around, saving them up to work on later while she slept. I stopped traveling. I stayed at home and made myself available to my child no matter what. I created this life we have so that she would feel safe and respected, and able to thrive. It wasn't all easy despite my practical approach but it mostly was and now I can see how far we have come.

I have held this child so tightly, knowing that the whole exercise of parenting is about letting go in a million different ways. Letting go of time, expectation, the deep seated crap we have carried from our own misshapen childhoods. We weren't in a good place last fall when her world was shattered by the loss of her friend from suicide. It was a tough blow and we've had to work hard to learn to process it. I returned to my fallback position of vigilance for awhile while I grieved the violent loss of her innocence. 5 months on I feel like we are through the worst of it, I hope we are through the worst of it. On top of all that though is just the normal discomfort associated with development. The letting go is difficult, it's sticky, and at times it's just plain ugly. Little gestures, harsh words, cutting looks. It's the push-me-pull-you of detachment. Normal healthy detachment. It will strip you bare at times, waking your own sleeping adolescent self. We rise and fall but hang together.

She asked me the other day, in a text, if I was an existentialist. I was touched somehow.  I said yes and asked her if she was one too. She said yes, and I immediately felt bad about it. We have crossed a threshold in understanding. Calvin's death opened up the possibility that the unspeakable could happen for no reason. There is no sugar coating this. As the parent I can only model what I think is the correct behavior or response. We honor that we are having a difficult time while still moving forward. There will always be some crisis that stirs up our feelings, sometimes small, occasionally catastrophic. There are moments in time that we need resilience to help us through. I have labored to give her the tools needed to weather these times.

Where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know,
you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.

Samuel Beckett

My kid got into the her chosen school and won a scholarship to boot. When I am not trying to impart to her every piece of important (in my opinion) information, I feel she needs to know about the world, I am amazed by her. She's fantastic, a wonderful being and I like to marvel at the person she is becoming. Parenting has been and continues to be the most exciting and fulfilling activities of my life. 

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