Friday, April 15, 2011

Does this mean we're not BFFs anymore?

I’ve always prided myself on having raised children with overactive consciences. If anything, they’ve been guilty of over-sharing – telling me things about long-ago exploits about which I could easily have gone to my grave not knowing. But I love that they’ve always felt comfortable sharing details about their lives and knowing I probably wouldn’t overreact. For the most part, I don’t think I ever have.

But today, I realized that perhaps things may be changing. One of them was texting with me today, and the conversation turned to a person he or she is getting to know – not dating, per se, but spending time with. I asked my child how things are going, and the child responded, “Great!” I typed back, kiddingly: “You could fill your mother in sometime…” and my child responded, “Nope!” I prodded a bit, but the child said, “Seriously, stop.” And that was that.

Both my children are in college, so such a response is normal and expected; I get that. And don’t get me wrong – I don’t want or expect intimate details, and of course the kids haven’t offered any. But the fact that my children have always discussed incidents and emotions so easily with me has been a source of great joy as a parent, as I knew each one of them felt he or she could rely on my support. I’m uneasy about the possibility that the “over-sharing valve” may be shut off.

This subtle shift is also a reminder that I really, truly will have to rely more heavily on my own life as a source of interest and enjoyment in the years ahead. Is this how the midlife crisis signals its arrival? (That would be OK, numerically speaking, because if this is truly “midlife,” I’ll live till my mid-90s.) I’m no longer the heavily needed parent; sure, they’ll humor me by allowing me to take them to dinner, but do they really need me? Let’s be honest: not really. They can feed and dress themselves, forage for food, do their own homework. They remember, presumably, to lock the door and turn off the stove burners.

If, God forbid, something happened to me, they’d be fine, and that thought brings me comfort; isn’t that what all parents want? But at the same time, I want them to continue to reach for the phone to share, commiserate, or simply hear a kind word from the person who loves them the very most.

So maybe I’ll simply give that child a taste of his or her own medicine. Maybe when the child calls and asks me to give up some detail of my own life, I’ll simply respond, “Nope!” It will serve him or her right to miss out on stories about work or the laundry or the furnace or my dentist appointment.

But seriously, I know this is probably a good thing. We’ve all seen what sometimes happens to children whose mothers and fathers are more concerned with being their friends than being their parents. Boundaries can be a good thing, and I guess I’m glad that my relationships with my kids do tend to possess healthy ones.

At the same time, though: “Nope!”? That’s just cold. Let’s see how that child feels when I flat-out refuse to spill the beans about my perfect triglyceride level.

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