A large part of becoming awakened and growing up as our children need us to has to do with letting go of our attachment to, need of, and dependency on our own parents….By binding ourselves to our own parents for approval, permission, a sense of belonging, and love, we keep ourselves small and childlike. This symbiosis of selves ultimately leaves little room for each to grow and thrive. It then gets projected onto our children, enslaving them to our parental fold beyond what’s healthy”
-Dr. Shefali Tsabary “The Awakened Family”
When you birth a child, you birth two new people. Your baby and you. You are never the same, never disconnected to this life that came of you. It even feels like you could never be independent from that soul–the one in front of you and the one within you. But you were once a new life in front of doting parents, and so were they. What age is it time to let them be free again (are we ever?) and who decides?
Everyone grows up with some level of attachment to our parents–in some cultures and some families, that attachment is stronger than others. Initial attachment is our emotional bond to our parents that gives them the desire to take care of our primary needs (eating, sleeping, safety) and eventually becomes the “engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development.” The confusing reality of this is that in order to be able to have a healthy attachment to your child-which has multitudes of short term and long term health benefits to you both, one must be able to honestly assess their own emotional bond to their parents. One must ask, how did my parents do at keeping me safe, seen, secure and soothed?
Many of us do not want to assess our attachment to our parents in any sort of negative light because we were told to “honor thy mother and father.” But honor does not mean cover up, sideline, or perverse the truth. Honor means telling the truth (sometimes to ourselves, first) about them, and their journey through life–because, whether they understood this or not, they were your first iteration of the universe’s expression of wholeness. If that iteration had a facade of wholeness and perfection, or at least a good-enough version, we may still trust them to be the truth in our lives. And if not your life, than in the life of your child. So many of us turn to our parents in our own parenthood looking for answers, truths, affirmation of how we are doing. Someone to say ‘you are ok. You are doing a good job.” Mostly that is okay, until you allow that fine line of affirmation to be blurred into an outright acceptance of truth and you end up trusting your parents more than you trust yourself. It is not a parent’s job to set your boundaries in an adult child’s way of being with their child, that is your job. It is a hard part, maybe the hardest, of growing up. Letting go.
You let them in as much as you need or want them there, but honestly assess whether you are giving them this power over your parenting because you need them or because you want them. Confronting your own independence takes maturity, trust, consciousness and vulnerability. Maturity to acknowledge that you are a grown up (even if you don’t always feel that way when you feel like you got lured into an argument with a child). Trust to allow this process of unfolding your children to happen naturally with the good and bad. Consciousness to awaken out of your blind acceptance of enculturation–of your parents and yourself. And finally, vulnerability to admit you may have been wrong and will be wrong in the future.
Setting parents free is different than kicking them out; it is a gift to you- and to them- and a way of stating that “you did a good job here but your job here is done, I’ll take full responsibility for my development from here.” It is a mature way of accepting your own adulthood and relieving them from any unintended damage they may have unconsciously done while raising you. It is freeing both of you from dependence, codependence, and enmeshment and gives you the chance to have a mature adult relationship, as intimate as your boundaries allow, with your parents.
Not from our culture and not from our parents will we learn to parent. We will learn only when we are willing to accept ourselves as unfolding on a perfect timeline for our evolution and that of our children.
Conscious Parenting series will be starting again soon! Details at: “Upcoming Events.”
Read More about Attachment here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/attachment
PS. I love you Mom and Dad–now more than ever.