I tuned in to Fresh Air on NPR the other day and caught Nick Lowe’s interview. I had never heard of Nick Lowe, but after listening to what he had to say about a variety of things, most specifically his own relationship with his family, he quickly became someone I wanted to know more about. He truly was a breath of fresh air! He was promoting his CD entitled At My Age, which after the interview, I promptly ordered. When he said that his family “liked each other, and all that, but they were not the kind of family that had to be in each other’s pockets—that had to call each other every day, ending each call with ‘love you’—well, we just weren’t that kind of family,” he said. Naturally, that got me to thinking.
Why is it that some families are in daily contact? Or in some cases, constant contact? I am talking about families where the offspring are fully capable adults, often with children of their own, who still can not seem to separate themselves from their parents as they each go through the routines of their daily lives—and the parents, vice versa. Notwithstanding all things being subjective, this seems to me, dysfunctional.
I know that circumstances differ from family to family. Yet, adult children who continue to demand unnecessary attention from their parents, expecting the parents’ lives to remain as entwined with theirs as when they were children seem selfish and immature. Parents whose lives are inseparable from their grown children’s, parents who are incapable of leading full and distinguishing lives free from the interference of the normal daily routines of their adult sons and daughters, grievously short-change themselves, and their children, to my way of thinking.
I believe a parent without his or her own identity as a person beyond being the on-call caretaker cannot be truly known, understood, or appreciated by the child. The parent who has no other persona risks becoming the lifetime crutch, cushion, mirror, safety net, referee, or doormat which prevents both the parent and the adult child from developing socially, psychologically, and materially, to their fullest personal potential. This is not to say that family members should not support each other. Of course, we should.
I am a parent and a grandparent. My offspring, and theirs, all share a common trait with me. We cherish our privacy, and respect each other’s. That is just the way it is. We are friends too, and enjoy each other as often as work and individual family requirements allow. It gives me great pride knowing that my children function without my constant input—function well, in fact. They are autonomous and self-reliant individuals, each one of them distinct from the other. My hat’s off to you, my children!
There is freedom in knowing my job is done. What a luxury it is to have time to myself, to think, to write, and to ponder things, like now. I hope my children will have the same luxury for themselves when they are my age. One of life’s greatest wisdoms is knowing when parenting, always a labor of love, is done. My responsibility now to my children is to live as happily, independently, and productively as I possibly can for as long as I can. Seems to me to be the natural order of things. Thanks, Nick Lowe, for reinforcing my belief that too many “love you’s” dilutes the meaning.