I heard that parents are supposed to give their kids two everlasting gifts: roots and wings.
Anxiety runs high in my family. Amy’s manifests around her beagle Mackinaw. Jason’s manifests around OCD cleaning, especially vacuuming (sometimes even during parties while he is hosting). When my life felt like it was spinning out of control, I controlled what I thought I could–my diet and my exercise. While I will always keep most of those sordid details in the vault, I will say that I’m healthier and happier now after seeking treatment. (PS: have you seen Lena Dunham?!)
My mom was a different story. Jason, Amy, and I often try to piece together the jigsaw of her “illness” without having a picture to work from. Anxiety…check. Depression…check. Personality disorder…maybe. OCD…definitely. It wasn’t until later in life that she finally got help, got meds, got better.
Because of my mom’s anxiety, her desire to control led her to sink her claws into any detail of our lives that she could. Jason was the only one of us to go away to college…and he went to Kettering in Flint because he received a full ride. While I was accepted to both U of M and MSU, and Amy was accepted to MSU and Western, both of us stayed home with mom and attended Oakland University.
When I called my mom, crying, from my orientation in Ann Arbor, instead of pushing me to find my strength and courage, to get over the hump of homesickness, she instead begged me to come back home…even going so far as to drive to Oakland University, speaking with an admissions officer herself, and getting me the app to fill out upon my return.
What can I say? I felt sorry for her.
At that point she and dad were divorced, he’d happily moved on, Jason was off at school, and I worried about leaving Amy alone with her. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no martyr. I was afraid too; it was easier to root myself back home than to spread my wings and fly away.
During one of my first sessions with Dr. O, she actually reinforced this metaphor by helping “push me out of the nest”, comparing my divorce to going off to college. I credit her, my sister, along with several of my strongest girlfriends, for being my wing-women.
I read recently somewhere that girls especially need more “dare-training”: supervised risk-taking to build their courage and self-esteem.
While it took me three years to recover financially from the divorce and save enough money to fly Mady and Lance out here to see Hawaii, see their Aunt Amy, see their new baby girl cousin coming, it was all well worth the wait.
The timing actually worked out perfectly; Amy will deliver tomorrow! And she will most definitely give her baby girl both roots and wings.
My own kids have been uprooted enough. Roots had to be re-established first. Check.
Now we’re working on our wings again. And someday when I kiss them goodbye at the colleges of their choice, I’ll cry on the way home, but I will allow them to spread their beautiful wings without me.