We went to the dentist today. As we arrived I was reprimanded for having a cup of coffee and had to stand in the hall outside the waiting room (I realize that that “had to” reflects my addiction, thank you). I felt ineffably proud of Grace as I watched her through a glass door – she sat by herself and looked through books for a good 10 minutes. The hygienist came out and called her name and I saw her look up, say “yes, that’s me” and then look at me through the glass door. I think she genuinely didn’t know if she was supposed to go in alone. Of course I ditched the coffee and went with her to the little room with the chair. This is her umpteenth dentist appointment but I am still awed by her trust, her cooperation, and her lack of anxiety in the chair.
This reaction made me think of how I am proudest of my children when they display self-reliance and independence. Watching them be brave swells my heart much bigger than watching them demonstrate skills or talents. This in turn makes me wonder if I’m sending a bad message – pushing them away too fast, too early. I can hear Hilary talking in my ear about the risks of over-emphasizing independence and autonomy. I acknowledge these risks and thought about this a lot this morning; I wonder if I am pushing my children out into the world too fast, expecting them to be too independent, celebrating too noisly their willingness to walk away from me. Is this so? How to walk the line between closeness and separation? I do believe, fundamentally, that an independent child is one secure that he/she is loved no matter what. But at the same time, I don’t want to raise children afraid to ask for what they need, and afraid of the interdependence that true intimacy entails. As usual, others can say things much more articulately than I can:
This is our human problem, one common to parents, sons and daughters, too – how to let go while holding tight, how to simultaneously cherish the closeness and intricacy of the bond while at the same time letting out the raveling string, the red yarn that ties our hearts. (Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance)