Chapter 22 » 22.70

Parents and children

Letting go

We cannot hope to transfer more than a little of our wisdom to our young people – if wisdom it is. We have increasingly to stand back as they grow older, knowing that the problem is passing out of our hands. They go off to college – or to live in a flat of their own, that aim and delight of so many young people. At last they have privacy, freedom from supervision and criticism, independence – but they are now fully exposed to all that we fear. Often they have much more self-confidence than is justified (‘I can take care of myself’), and they little know that to avoid disaster they must avoid the circumstances in which the first sequence of events takes place. Many are carried headlong into sexual experiences that they did not intend or foresee.

This is the moment of disengagement, when parents must tell themselves that the young people are no longer their children and that they are outside their discipline. The decisions made by the young men and women mustn’t be clouded by confusion with parental emotions (‘How can you bear to hurt your mother?’). Parents cannot help being anxious, but they must bear that in themselves, not project it. They cannot live their children’s lives for them.

It is also the moment for parents to tell themselves that their children are not alone. They are in the hands of God. God does not offer any kind of perfection in the actual circumstances of life, nor freedom from exposure to evil. Nor will parents ever be able – if they are honest – to look back over their experience of parenthood without being conscious of imperfections in their own understanding and handling of their children.

Kenneth C Barnes, 1960

← 22.69 22.71 →