From the first moment we hold our children on into eternity, we love our children unconditionally. We delight in them, we marvel at their uniqueness, we keep them safe, we hope the best for them, we trust them, we respect them, we emotionally support them, we weep with them, we laugh with them, we share their sorrows and share their joys, and our love provides them with a permanent place of acceptance and sanctuary in our hearts and in our homes. We are their emotional blankie or stuffie, pushed into the closet or back of the drawer, always ready to be pulled out again when needed. There is nothing that we will not do for our children unless something heartbreakingly inexplicable happens, and, all of a sudden, doing nothing becomes doing everything for them.
We parents know the truism that love is about letting go. That's how children grow and become their fullest, most complete selves. It is not easy for any of us parents to let go. We offer unsolicited advice, we badger them with questions, some of us helicopter parent, some of us don't, but whatever we do, we do it because we don't want our children to suffer all the pain and agony of growing up that we did. We want to protect them, but, ultimately, we always realize that we cannot. They must learn for themselves, while we stand by, wringing our hands and shaking our heads, feeling helpless and probably more agony than our children feel when things don't go as planned.
So we learn to let go AND to be silent, and, I'll wager that learning when and how to be silent is even harder than letting go. We think if we can just phrase our opinions the right way, our children might listen to us. It's SO difficult to be silent when your children seem to be making mistakes, though, in their eyes, they may not be mistakes at all. And most of us parents know the feeling of mystification that overwhelms us when our children choose a friend, a lover, or a spouse that makes no sense to us at all. What do they see in this or that person? All of a sudden, arranged marriages don't look too bad to us, though we would have roared in rebellion if our parents wanted to do that to us. We just want our children to be happy; we don't want them to get hurt. But utlimately, pleased or puzzled by their choices, we want their choices to work out for the best because we love them with all our hearts and only want good things for them. So it goes, generation after generation after generation.
Every year on my four children's birthdays, I recall the moment of their births with exquisite detail, love, and joy. I am well known for sharing their birth stories, year after year after year, and, for the most part, they are very patient with me. They are my babes, and I will always love them, no matter what, for always and always, each as much as the other, and I tell them I love them every chance I get.
However, today, my third child's 30th birthday, I cannot celebrate with him or tell him I love him. In 2004, when he was a teenager, he developed schizophrenia. His delusions and his paranoia keep him from being part of my life and part of our family's life. For years, I did everything I could to help him, but he refused to take his medications, and, to be honest, they did not work very well for him. I tried every way possible to convince him of my love for him, to show him that his delusions and paranoia were lying to him, to make him see truth, but schizophrenia is a formidable adversary, and it beat me. Everything I tried made things worse.
But how can love make things worse? I struggled with this for years. My favorite book as a child was A Wrinkle in Time, in which Meg saves her brother Charles Wallace with her love, so I was sure that I could to the same with my son, but I couldn't, until one day, I realized my love could make it better for him but at a cost greater to myself than I ever thought I could pay--I could leave him alone and not contact him.
So, today, on his 30th birthday, through a mist of tears, I am loving my son with all of my being by continuing to let him go, to stay silent, and to do nothing. As contradictory as this may seem, in the current situation, doing nothing is doing everything for him.
A silent whisper into the universe:
"Happy Birthday, Sweetheart, wherever you are. Love you always, Mom"