I have this image in my mind, a little movie, although I can’t remember where I saw it (perhaps it was one of my vivid dreams): A dad pulls into the driveway after a day of work. His tiny son is playing with a Truck in the yard. When the boy sees dad the truck drops from his hand, as if it didn’t exist, and the boy scampers over. The dad sweeps him up.
I love that image.
For so many years, you bundle your kids off to vacations and events. The family goes out to dinner. Everybody’s on the same schedule: “Who wants to go out?” means “We’re going out!” Then one day you say, “Hey, who wants to get some ice cream?!” and you get hemming and hawing.
I read a piece the other day in The Conversation “Parenting practices around the world are diverse and not all about attachment.” The article looked at attachment theory, a way of thinking about the “psychological connectedness between human beings” or the quality of the intimate bonds we make during the course of our lives, with a specific focus on parent-child relations.
It’s an interesting piece, describing how cultures view parent-child attachment differently (there’s some chilling stuff about Nazi parenting practices).
We’ve had our attachment time, and now I can tell you that we’re getting more detached around here (with a caveat; see below). And I just have to let it go. I have plenty of things of my own going on, but I still find it jarring when my two boys’ independence manifests itself every time we want to go somewhere.
I don’t want this to sound all pitiful, because I have a good, functioning relationship with these chaps, but they have moved, certainly in less acute and less pathological ways than many teens, this writer included, into worlds that are paradoxically more interior while also more socially populated with friendships.
This makes it tough when we want to do almost anything. Planning?: Brutal. The hook/trick is to have them bring a pal. I like their friends, so we’re usually willing to bring a friend, but at times I feel annoyed by this borderline bribery. I suppose if I dangled like the coolest vacation on earth in front of them, they’d be gung-ho for once, but I picture even then that I’d have to offer to buy a ticket to Europe for a chum–it ain’t happening!
At one time in our culture, and still true in many cultures, such detachment was normal and expected, and it still should be. But it is weird to go through. Of course, your kid won’t think you’re cool and shouldn’t be your life-long pal, and I really don’t take it personally, but I still find it amazing that they’ll pass up a Rita’s Misto or Nellie Bly’s Skookie or Maple Shade Custard Stand ice cream sandwich. I don’t even think it’s conscious mostly–they’re just wired now to resist.
So there’s this bittersweet detachment happening: I’m watching them blossom into proud boys while getting less facetime with them. They’re sliding away…
… but, wait, all of a sudden my college-age daughter is stopping by my office at work and saying weird things like “I remember you used to tell me that I should do __–that was a great idea!” or asking me if I want to eat lunch. (Granted, I’m always paying for the latter, so let’s not get too misty-eyed here).
So they’ll come back around? Like a play on that old cliche, I guess they’ll be shocked at how enjoyable their parents became when they turned 20, especially when they’re scrabbling through college and the offer of a free lunch beckons.