Searching for the parental sweet spot

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I liked it better when he used to write about his kids.” It’s true. I wrote about my children all the time. But then something happened:

They grew up.

Our four children are all adults now or on the verge of adulthood. They have relationships, jobs, serious schoolwork, plans, uncertainties and lots going on in their lives that really isn’t anyone’s business. The last thing I want to do is embarrass them.

And yet for years I did. When I first started writing this column, I didn’t hold much back when it came to nap times, stitches, school, squabbles, sports and, of course, the farting. Nothing wrong with writing about the farting.

At one point, though, I started asking them, “You mind if I write about [recent awkward yet humorous event]?” This was because they had learned to read. That’s probably when and why we bestow privacy on our children: when they can bust you.

Their privacy also has to do with their independence. Their actions are no longer necessarily interactions with Deb and me. They go their own way, making decisions that result in a broken bone here, a tattoo there.

And yet we continue to worry. We will never stop worrying.

At one point, I thought we had hit the sweet spot. It was probably three years ago. The older ones were in university and CEGEP and the youngest was a newly minted teenager who still liked us. Deb and I could feel satisfaction that we had done a good job as parents, that we could look on with relief and say, “It’s all right, they got this.”

But the sweet spot never lasts. There is usually some cause to fret. For example, a small thing: right now our eldest Emily is visiting Turkey. Risks are everywhere, I tell myself, but Turkey! It’s the bungee-jumping of countries!

James, meanwhile, will be attending Concordia University in the fall and playing basketball. We’re proud and excited for him as he gains increasing independence.

Sounds good, right? But university sports are fraught with risk. Last Christmas, he got nailed in the kidney and ended up overnight in the hospital. The next morning, the doctor asked us to join him in a nearby empty room.

“This is the room.” I thought. “This is the room where they tell bad news. They’ve found something on his kidney and now he has to tell us. This is the private freakout room.” My heart sank and my head began to swim. “It’s just a bruise,” the doctor told us. “He’ll be fine.”

He’ll be fine.

They’ll be fine.

I could write so much about the children, how Abby is going through all the drama that comes with being nearly 16, about the worries we have for her, for all of them. I could write about how we spent a good chunk of Tuesday at yet another hospital after concussion-prone Katie whacked her head at work, a visit that began with a phone call: “Dad? I have a problem.” I could write about dropping everything and jumping in a car to rescue them, no matter how old they are.

I could write about their crises, their heartbreaks and the disappointments, decisions and indecisions, the ups that seem so up and the downs that feel so down. But I don’t because, unlike when they were children, their stories are no longer simply cute. They have impact on their lives. Their stories are theirs, their futures, their reality. Life for these young adults is suddenly real. Deb and I are reduced to spectators with a standing offer of support, shelter and short-term storage.

When I first starting writing about my children, I was like most young parents: I believed they were the most unique, amazing creatures that had ever lived. No other parents had ever undergone such discoveries. I know now that every parent feels this way.

I don’t pretend, then, that we’re the only parents who worry about their young adult children, who will go on worrying as they get married, have children or decide not to do any of those things. I’m not telling anything new here.

The only thing new is that it’s a bit of a surprise.

I expect there’s another sweet spot somewhere down the road. Why? Because they’re good kids, with smart heads and compassionate hearts. They have an exciting, unpredictable future ahead of them, and I expect that theirs will be much like their parents: unpredictable, chaotic, happy. And that’ll be sweet indeed.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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28 Responses to Searching for the parental sweet spot

  1. Chas Spain says:

    Totally beautiful Ross – my three now all in the same stage as yours by the looks.

  2. ksbeth says:

    i totally understand all of this. unfortunately for my children, and my grandchildren who are able to read, i continue to share some of their stories. quite often, i’ll hear, ‘is this picture/situation/other whatnot for the blog?’ and i always act surprised and then respond with an “oh, i guess it could be…”

  3. Nicely written Ross! I hear from my friends with grown children and grand children that there is a sweet spot where you are close friends with your children and have a grand child or two to spoil but not stay up all night fretting over or cleaning up after and you have some time to be a again couple too. Sounds pretty good, I think. Congrats on raising a good solid family! I don’t think parenting is an easy choice, but I’m sure the rewards are great.

  4. List of X says:

    This was a pretty sneaky way to write about your kids by pretending you’re not going to write about your kids. 🙂
    P.S. I think you may be overestimating the risk of Turkey. After all, Turkey is the German version of the Caribbean.

  5. “Our four children are all adults now or on the verge of adulthood.”

    With half your chromosomes, I give them three chances in five.

  6. gavinkeenan says:

    A wonderful story. Thank you.

  7. Dang. So now, of course, I’ve projected this wonderful piece onto my family and have a kind-of dread about my daughters getting older and become fully functioning adults who don’t need, or even want, my help. Thanks, tons, for the warning shot across my bow. Maybe we can form a support group if that’s okay with you?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I think they do need and want it, it’s just that the lines of giving/receiving are less clear. But the support group is generally a good idea. My youngest turns 16 next Saturday.

  8. I feel like my parenting sweet spot was my pregnancy 🙂 Great post, and something to give light at the end of the small children tunnel. Which is full of farts and legos.

  9. Ahdad says:

    This post really blew me away because I’m entering similar territory. I’m suddenly much more aware about the things I post because, like you so eloquently observed, it’s there lives now. The bigger problem is that throughout my blogging time of four years numerous people have followed me and sometimes it’s better to say nothing that post something.

    Great post!

  10. Pingback: Searching for the parental sweet spot — Drinking Tips for Teens – Graced_inclusive

  11. BuntyMcC says:

    Awwwww… Future sweet spots might include grandchildren and then you can start all over again!

  12. There’s nothing wrong with writing about the farting but I guess, unlike six-year-olds, nearly-sixteen-year-olds don’t want future boy/girlfriends to know. I’m toasting sweet spots.

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