A guest blogger on Parent as Protector (or, the pain of letting go.)

My dear, dear friend Kim is a few years ahead of me in the parenting role – She’s been through the sending your kid to college transition of life, and her words were so beautiful and clear, I’m offering them here for every parent letting go just a wee bit more, whether it’s the first day of daycare, preschool, middle school, high school, marriage, or moving across the country:

From Kim:

babyWatching my stepdaughter care for her new baby, I’m taken back to the all- consuming, protective love of new parents. She cried when her baby was playfully dunked in the pool during her first swimming lesson. It’s the kind of love where you give your infant swimming lessons.

This little girl’s been treasured since we new she was coming.   And now that she is here, her parents do all of the gazing, adoring, worrying, and protecting of every new parent.

I’m in a different phase now, that of launching grown children in the world. And I think about the balance of Parent as Protector. My young adult children require much less protecting, but it’s still hard to let go.

I remember that defenseless newborn in my arms. I remember sitting in the car crying to my husband after our first-born had his initial immunizations. I babbled on about my inability to keep him from hurting. Looking back, the scene seems comical (and probably hormone influenced). But then, the feelings were intense; love and protection fused together in those early days.

And as my children grew, love as protection became more blurred. They didn’t overlap so neatly. When does love mean protect, and when does it mean trust?   I could find no formula in the parenting manual, so I learned by trial and error, instinct, and conversations with friends. Pulling back on protection demanded a gradual release, with lots of stumbling, second-guessing, and re-negotiating terms.

But it wasn’t and isn’t easy to define those terms, especially when my kids still often look like they could use some protecting. Just this year, I watched one son select his college because it was near a Chipotle. OK, that wasn’t the only reason, but honestly, I think it was the factor that tipped the decision. Then I read the text from his brother telling me that he thought he would take himself swimming with sharks while on a trip to South Africa. How much do I say to each of my young adult sons? Do I trust or protect?

They both went. And survived. And I’m sure grew up some because their choices. But other times I’ve had to watch them get really hurt. When my oldest son went through a difficult break up, I watched him shut down and literally shrink. He lost weight, his voice grew quieter, he pulled back from friends and family. And though I tried, there was really nothing I could do. It was his time to do some more growing, to learn some hard lessons, to build resilience. But it was my time too. At 48, I’m learning humbling lessons about how hard it can be to let go, and to separate protection from love.

I have compassion now for the younger me when I remember that overwhelming need to protect our new babies.   And I have compassion for myself because it’s so hard to overcome that protective instinct as they grow.  But we must struggle, because otherwise our children won’t be ready to launch and be independent, and cope with life.

But it all starts from such a beautiful place. There is a purity in my step daughter’s love for her daughter that is so right and sweet. I could no more speak to her about pulling back and letting Piper struggle and develop resilience than I could convince her to move to the moon. It’s one of the many paradoxes of parenting, this balance between holding tight and letting go. She will and can only figure it out as she goes. As do I.

Love 2.0

I am an introvert – What we called “shy” in my childhood.  I realize this may be news to some.  I’ve been known to hop on one of my many soapboxes and dominate a conversation. But if I spot someone I know, say at the mall, and I think they haven’t seen me, my first, and sometimes second instinct, is to duck into a store to avoid a conversation.   I know, not a great trait in a pastor.  But there you go.  I’m an introvert at heart.

Then I read  Barbara Fredrickson‘s book “Love 2.0.”  Image

 

And then I went running, and on my way back, passed a neighbor walking her dog.  Of course, my first instinct was to wave cheerfully and keep on going.  Especially because my past interactions with her hadn’t been fun.  Her black poodle was very classy, and proper, and obedient.  Her comments about our rascally, scruffy, decidedly less obedient rescued cock-a-poo were, shall we say, haughty.  Even though we took the same yoga class, I knew I hadn’t really endeared myself to her.   So lots of reasons to keep on running.

Then I thought, “Hmmm.  Let’s try out Barbara Fredrickson’s theory, which is that to our biology and our brains, “love” is not the romantic Hollywood “happily-ever-after, but a fleeting emotion that connects us with another that can change our brain for the better.  A nutrient we need much as a steady diet of healthy food and sleep.  The science of emotion research shows that this positive connection affects our neurology and biology.  When we connect, 

       1. We mirror one another’s gestures and non-verbal cues

       2. Our biochemistry synchronizes (WILD!)

       3. Our vision literally broadens so we see more (the opposite is true when we’re threatened or angry – Our field of vision shrinks) 

       4. We share in a  moment of mutual care and concern that nourishes our brain and body.

(This is an extremely simplified take.)  

Even though this wasn’t normally someone I would seek out for connection, I knew she had fallen and hurt her wrist last week, so that gave me something to ask her.

She was so genuinely touched at my concern and my care and that I would stop running just to ask her how she was doing – WOW!  Barbara Fredrickson was right!  I felt so good, as we connected!  

Of course, she then asked if I was coming to her neighborhood gathering, and I explained I had a Sunday School class coming over at that time.  The interaction turned a bit sour as I sensed she didn’t think this was a very good reason not to attend her event. 

O well.  I also know that in order for these moments to have lasting impact, I have to focus on the positive feelings our connection generated and really take in how good it felt.  And let the good of the experience move me out of my comfortable and safe cocoon of introversion to actually notice and be kind to the people around me, strangers and friends alike.  It’s good for their health; it’s good for my health.  

So say something nice to the check-out clerk, or the dry cleaner, or your child’s teacher, or even your spouse.  It’s good for you, body, brain, soul and mind.

No past, present, or future: On Love

Yesterday  I wrote about the physicist Brian Greene, and his struggles to accept what he knew mathematically to be true about time and how time passes.  His lived experience of life told him his father died in the past.  But mathematically, there is no such thing as past.  

A quick and extremely simplistic example:  According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (and other mathematical models) there is no such thing as past, present, and future.  This is how my brain can grasp that truth:  If you move faster than the speed of light, your present is earth’s future, and if you return, your past is their present, or future, or past, depending on how long you’ve been gone.  (To all my science friends:  Please correct if this is a grossly erroneous!)

Perhaps your own spiritual life holds this to be true as well:  That with God, or within the universe, there still and always will exist all that has happened, could happen, and will happen.  But man, is that hard to see – to beleive – in real life.  (Even though as one who trusts in the reality of resurrection and the alive-ness of Christ for today, it’s STILL hard.  It boggles my mind.  It’s easier to trust what my senses tell me.)  

Until I saw this post on The Belle Jar’s facebook page today:  https://www.facebook.com/TheBelleJar?fref=nf 

This is an excerpt from a letter the acclaimed physicist Richard Feynman  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman

wrote his wife 16 months after her death.  Remember, he’s a physicist, with a much more complex understanding of time than us mere mortals (who last took math in 1984 & made a “D.”)

It reflects to how time is irrelevant when speaking of love – And what could be more true than love?

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. 

When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you ….  You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive….. You only are left to me. You are real.

 

Okay, so some might say there is unresolved grief here, but I would say that is the perspective of one who has not lost a loved one.  Even if our loved one’s molecules and atoms are not visible and cannot be held, for those of us who loved them deeply, they still are real.  In some ways, more real than what can be seen & touched.  And in a very real, mathematical, AND sense of the heart, this is more true than what our senses tell us.

(Watch for a post that sort of contradicts this:  On the powerful reality our senses know better than our minds….. Because our brain’s world IS COMPLICATED.)