In the US of A, at 18, an all new life begins. You are an adult in the proper sense, your life becomes your own. Life in college is a different affair and you are responsible for everything you do…specially when one gets to go away to a college in a different city, leaving parents to deal with the loneliness. No more listening to advises, no more asking permission, no more forced to eat what is cooked and at a particular time…A BIG NO to a lot of things. Freedom!!!! Yayyyyy!
But on the other side, what (Indian) parents feel is a great loss. The child is only 18 and it’s a tough world out there. All these years they have done everything possible for their kids and now to suddenly let go…it tears you apart. It’s a different picture with American (White) parents – they wait for their kids to complete 18, so that they can be rid of some of the responsibilities…they would get a share in the rent, or would ask the kids to move out on their own. Kids are welcome to stay with their parents, but that is mostly not encouraged. They are molded to stand on their own feet and be responsible for their lives.
Once kids are into their teens, they want their own space, they are most comfortable with their friends, busy with school, games, sleep overs etc. They are in their own world. They have their own set of TV programs. The interaction goes down and they have to be forced to even sit down and have dinner together.
For a mother whose life has revolved mostly around the kid (especially if its a single child) it is torture to come to terms that the fledgling has flown the nest. The emptiness is a lot to take in. Wondering and fretting whether they had their morning coffee, whether they had their food on time, whether they have a headache….its a totally different feeling. Alas, life cannot be remote-controlled from a different location. It would be a totally different picture had it been if the child was about 23yrs or so and was leaving home for PG or getting married. It’s a small consolation that the child is old enough to take care of themselves and can handle anything that life throws at them. (Yes, it’s a different story that there are parents who can never accept that the child is an adult and has the right to take decisions on their own. Even if the child is 40yrs or older, there are parents who want to be consulted on everything that the child does and want to have a say in everything and micro-control their lives). It’s a good thing if both parents are in sync and happy. But there are families that have stuck together just for the sake of the kids, where the husband and wife don’t even talk much to each other but have carried on with their lives focusing on the child. What would such couples do once the child has left home? Then there are single parents too.
The kids are very happy and excited on starting a life of their own..perhaps that excitement is greater than the feeling about leaving their parents. There is an expectation from parents that maybe their kids would give them a hug, shed a tear, say they are going to miss them or at least tell them “I promise to take care of myself, please take care of yourselves too”. But when none of this happens – its a huge blow to them. Emotions threaten to choke the life out of you. So, is it bad to expect things and feel horrible later on? How can one not expect anything from their dear ones? What kind of life would that be?
I have been a spectator to all this from close quarters. It’s very difficult to take on sides. Every child I have come across seem happy to start their life on their own. Leaving home is just another chapter of their life.
One parent asked her son to call her every night by 9pm saying she would be waiting for the call. The call came the first day. Then there was none. After 2 days when the mother called asking why he had not called, the son says “I have been very busy settling into the dorm. Isn’t it enough I call you every week?”. Who is right and who is wrong here? One mother extracts a promise from her son that she wants to set up his bed and room in the dorm and that he should not deprive her of that satisfaction. Promises are made, but when they reach the dorm, the son doesn’t want any help to set up his room and discourages his parents from doing anything. He will figure out and take care of everything he says…and so when they return the next day to see him, they are pleasantly surprised to see his room tidy and everything in place. Suddenly their little boy seems all grown up. They are happy that he is happy, but the realization that they are not needed for help is hard to swallow.
One set of parents are sad that their child is in a different college without his close friends and has confided to them that he feels lonely. He wants to come back home at the first opportunity. Mothers call each other to find out how each one is coping.
I have noticed that there is a dip in emotional bonding from the children towards their parents-be it India or USA. Kids as long as they are pre-teens are obedient, love family activities and are milder. Once in their teens a sort of rudeness takes over, they are curt in their answers and just don’t realize how they might hurt parents/others with what they say-though none of it is intentional. According to them they are being straight forward, but it feels different to others. Yes, I agree that I too was once like this (I went to school and college from home) while staying in the same house, so I understand its a circle of life.
I am really confused on what is wrong here or who is not doing the right thing. Why are all the kids nowadays so emotionally detached? Each one feels that what they do is right – yes it is after all their life. But then what about parents who send their kids to boarding schools at a very young age? Kids don’t get to be with their parents during their most important growing years. How do they cope? How do they bridge the emotional gap? It’s never easy, but life has to go on-for the parents and for the child.
So, I’m coming back to my question which lead to this post…how does one LET GO of a child after so many years of emotional investment??? Is that why at a later stage in life too its so difficult for some parents to accept that their son has grown up, chosen his own life and partner and wants to live life his way?
(I’ve not had the opportunity to observe how the present generation girls behave with their parents-but from what I’ve heard, the interaction seems to be the same).