THE “D” WORD
Independence is an American ideal. And I even wrote a column about fostering independence. But what happens when the little darlings become independent. Actually become adults. (Well, adults in the sense that the legal community considers them old enough to sign their own contracts. To the parents, even mine, they are obviously still children.)
Recently, I got my comeuppance regarding my daughter’s independence. And many of you will applaud her, but those of you who are parents will understand my white-knuckle ride in my chair as it went through the floor. Two weeks before winter break, my daughter reported that she was not feeling well. She had missed some of her classes and was having trouble getting in all the final papers.
We had several conversations in which I told her to go to the health center. She is going to school in New York and I am in California. She felt that she had things under control and did not want to go to the health center.
Of course, I nagged on. Finally she said to me, “I’m not going. And you are there and I am here and there is nothing you can do about it!”
Well, there you are.
The truth is, it is her body and she is in charge. I have to trust that she will make the best decisions for herself. Even if I don’t trust, I have to accept that she is the one making the decisions and they may not be what I have in mind for her to decide.
This is where ones religious convictions are called up. Acceptance is the answer. Well, my personal philosophy is, “Do what so ever you can, then accept.”
Yes, but on the other hand, “Trust in God, but tie your camel first,” and, “The Lord has no other hands but yours.” You see it is difficult for me to go quietly into this acceptance thing - especially when it concerns my daughter.
The only way to get any perspective on this (and that is all I can offer here) is to remember myself as a daughter. Not long ago, my own dear mother questioned me about my health and asked if I had had my yearly check up. “Of course,” I assured her. But the truth is I don’t exactly remember to which year that “yearly” applies.
Parent/child communication is equally interesting. For instance, I ask my daughter, whom I believe is very bright, capable and responsible, if she had bought her vitamins yet. Or some such very innocuous question. She hears, “Dummy, I suppose you haven’t the brains to take care of yourself.”
Anyway, she responds as if I have said as much. I want to go on record here, that I have said no such thing. I have implied no such thing. I, in no way, think such a thing. I am innocent!
Now we are all somebody’s child. So, no matter how old you are, recall a conversation with your parent. Wasn’t it exactly like this?
A gentleman in our support group was describing a conversation with his father. His father began his comments about his son’s IBD with, “If I were you, I’d try...” etc., etc. Our friend declared in complete frustration, “Doesn’t he know I’ve tried a list as long as toilet paper!”
As a parent, I’m going to give the father the benefit of the doubt that what he was saying was, “I’m concerned about you and I wish there was something I could do, so, here is my suggestion.”
What the son hears is, “ You idiot, why don’t you do something.”
Sometimes I realize that advice is not being asked for, just listening. My frustration in wanting to help usually will lead to my saying something totally annoying to my daughter. But if I just sympathize, she often gets angry too. What to do? (And if I say “what to do?” she really gets mad. )
So, you parents who’ve been there know exactly what I am talking about. If you are like me, you will keep trying to get all the information you can about this nasty disease and, on the off chance that something you say will be helpful, will keep passing on your wisdom to your child.
And you children (who are no longer children) who have to put up with us “helpful” parents, well, have pity on us. Occasionally, you could take our suggestions.
I try to remember that my frustration is at the IBD, not my daughter. Despite the eye rolling and “Don’t Even!” ‘s she gives me, she knows I am there for her.
Now that you know my penchant for advice, you can be sure I will not leave you without some helpful points to remember:
A sense of humor!
I wish you all understanding and the best of health.
Copyright 1996 - 2002 Arlyn Serber