Ah, rejection! Had someone told us when we started out as parents that we would have our hearts so broken and battered by these tiny little innocent creatures, do you think we would have believed them? What a cruel joke it is that we are told to embrace “attachment parenting,” to bond and devote ourselves to our children–all the while their job is to push, pull and run to get away and forge out on their own as independent people. How do we wrestle with all the various stages and versions of feeling rejected?!
Recently, I was talking with an old friend of mine who has very recently become a grandmother for the first time. During the process of the pregnancy and her impending grandmother-hood, her son and daughter-in-law set about “establishing boundaries”–telling the grandmother-to-be that she couldn’t call every other day to check on them, that they were going to be in charge and decide when she could visit and see them and the new baby. “We’re a family now and we need space from you,” they shared in an intervention of sorts.
Of course, she was absolutely heart-broken. Even though her “kids” were grown people with lives of their own, to be rejected after supporting them through their young adulthood struggles, paying for the wedding, being a sounding board when college and adulthood became overwhelming–to be told that she needed to “back off” was painful and devastating.
While I was lending an ear and trying to reassure her that this really wasn’t about her, but about their own unpleasant attempts at establishing independence, I couldn’t help but think over all the times my own children have told me to “back off.” Of course, I hope by the time they are in their mid-twenties they will have more tact and behave with more care–but that sting of rejection is real all the same.
From the time they take their first steps, shouting “My Do It!” over all sorts of little trials and tasks, and insist upon taking their own selves into the classroom on the first day of school, we mothers feel that pulling away and the bitter slap of rejection. When my friend was declaring, “I’ll always be the mother!” I could feel her pain, but I could also see the other side, they don’t always want to admit that we’re the mother…