I said goodbye to my youngest son as he flew 1500 miles away to return to law school. Our other sons had already gone back to their own lives and homes. They were happy good-byes – we had a great time together. Our family has an exciting year ahead of us, including a family wedding, travel plans and family gatherings.
I read about other parents – their tearful goodbyes and broken hearts as they say goodbye to their college-bound and adult children. I don’t feel that way. My sons’ lives excite me and I am happy that they ARE “grown and flown.” That was the plan – that was the goal. I miss them but none of us would be happy if we were all hunkered down together forever in one house. This makes us all happy. Usually.
You are Only as Happy as Your Most Unhappy Child
But there IS something that makes me feel unhappy and broken-hearted. Something that can keep me awake at night. Something that seems to be an undeniable part of parenting.
It starts as soon as you become parents. Babies who won’t sleep when they need to or are unwilling to take a bottle. Little ones who cry when you leave them. We hear “little children, little problems” but that wasn’t how it felt. They were MY children and these were MY problems. If my children were not happy, I was miserable.
My babies are now adults. I still hate it when my children are unhappy. Yes, I know how sappy that sounds. I don’t care. I’m not talking about having a bad hair day but life problems that cause real sorrow and unhappiness.
I am talking about the you are only as happy as your most unhappy child syndrome. It’s real. And it hurts. Our children are grown-ups now. They have relationships, jobs, mortgages – lives of their own. With that comes inevitable challenges and grown-up problems. Sometimes they feel frustrated, overwhelmed and defeated. And sometimes they share that with us.
I’m thankful when they share their lives with me but immediately I want to fix things. I’m the mom and that’s what I do. I mean, that’s what I did, or at least tried to do when they were little. I can’t really do that anymore. I can listen, offer my experience and possible suggestions. But I can’t really fix things now and truthfully haven’t been able to fix things for some time.
I can only hope that I’ve given them the guidance (did they listen? was it good advice?) and tools (education and experiences) to make good decisions. Sometimes I know that their unhappiness is due to things that will pass and that helps me. I know they will be okay. Still, they are unhappy as they work through it and that makes me sad.
So that feeling in the pit of my stomach seems to be unavoidable. It’s true. You’re only as happy as your most unhappy child.
Our children won’t understand this until they have children. Even then they may not relate their feelings to what we feel for them. I mean, did you ever realize your parents felt this way? Maybe you think our generation’s parenting is different. Maybe it is, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter – kids still don’t understand how deeply their lives and their happiness affects a parent. Age doesn’t matter.
So, how do you separate yourself when they are unhappy? Maybe the answer is that we don’t. We can’t and we never will. I think that’s part of the solution. Maybe that’s the only “fix” we can offer. It helps to know someone loves and supports you 100% regardless of the outcome of things. It helps to know you always have someone who you can call and someone who will listen. We can still help even if we can’t fix. And we can always listen. There are times when that’s all that is needed – or wanted.
I will always be that someone. I want my children to share their lives with me. This is part of life. An important family part of our lives.
Have faith – faith in whatever makes you strong, faith in your spiritual beliefs and faith that our children will get through their challenges. And have faith that we have raised them strong.
I will listen. I will share their hurt. I will love and support them. I will provide hope when they feel hopeless. I will always be their safe place. And, you know I will have to offer a few suggestions, too. After all, I’m a mom.
Always and forever.
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