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Who Influences Whom?

December 8, 2023

BY KEN BARRINGER

“The last of my 4 children is graduating from high school this year and will be leaving home, leaving me by myself. I’m excited for her and worried for me.”


“We are going to be having our first child next spring. I’m equal parts thrilled and terrified.”


Between these two extremes are a great number of transitions that calls into play our way of managing transitions.


Having children changes things. With change comes loss and with loss comes change. Conventional wisdom tells us the caregivers of children greatly influence them and who they will become. While this is true, do we ever think about how much children greatly influence who their caregivers become? Perhaps we haven’t. We are not conditioned to ‘stop and think’ (what if we never ‘start’ again?) in the face of change. We are, more likely, conditioned to defer to conventional wisdom, or old and dated scripts about child rearing.


However, our children often determine what we do. Who we socialize with and when. How our time is spent. What time we go to bed, what time we wake up. When and what we eat. Of course, we greatly influence our children with our values, beliefs, and way of living in the world, amongst other things. Are you open to the idea that your child influences your identity?


How is this topic related to grief? A non-death way grief can show up is with our expectations - things are not as I thought. When “things are not as I thought they were” it can tap into the spiritual manifestation of grief. The spiritual manifestation of grief brings into question our belief system, faith, trust. Worst case scenario is the spiritual manifestation can lead to trouble accepting the reality of what is in front, thus grasping and holding on when we need to start to let go.


So much of the transition in times of loss and change is making meaning and reconstructing the relationship. Instead, we may start bargaining, rationalizing, and moving further away from acceptance.


 Back to how this relates to raising children. If we are not open to how they are influencing us we may look nonresponsive to their needs (“I don’t have to attend that meeting, they’ll be fine, my parent never went to anything”) or not being available (“I’m too busy, I didn’t sign up to be an Uber driver”), for example. Yes, there are realities that we don’t have to go to every meeting and there are times when we are quite busy. However, we need to look at what our parental expectations were and do they match what is in front of us.


If we are trying to teach our children about love, care, and transition, maybe they’re teaching us about that too. This is not to imply that we do everything for our children, every time – we can’t. It’s merely to raise awareness that our children are influencing us. When we are open to this, we just might find it’s a pretty nice place to be.