On Sunday afternoon the family took our annual trip into Manhattan to the New York Musical Festival. We saw ‘Sonata 1962’. It was about the love a mother had for her daughter and the lengths she was willing to go to in order to protect her from harm. …Sort of.
Her daughter, an accomplished pianist, a virtuoso, went away to college on a music scholarship. She was the first girl (it’s 1962) admitted into the composition program. She was full of promise and potential.
But when we first meet her, we see her at home, recovering from ‘treatment’. And so, the story slowly unfolds in flashbacks.
We eventually learn that she had been hanging out in a gay bar when it was raided by the police (it’s 1962). She and her girlfriend were arrested for lewd conduct. So, in an effort to save her daughter from a life of struggle (?) hardship (?) shame (?) this mother agreed to subject her to shock therapy. The ‘treatment’ had cured her of her illness (?) affliction (?) proclivity (?). It had also erased all of her memories of the love of her life. And, it left her unable to play the piano! The results, and the accompanying violins, were utterly devastating.
I was choking back tears for much of the show. My heart broke a little more with each scene. When they flashed back to her playing and singing the song she had written for her sweet Sarah… utterly devastating.
But it was presented in such a way that although I could not agree at all with what this mother did, I could completely understand why she did it. She was making a decision based on her fear. She was afraid for her daughter’s life. She was making a decision based on her desire to control the situation, to keep her daughter from a life that she herself could not imagine. She was simply trying to be a good mother.
When we came home on Sunday night, my 17 year old informed me that she would be driving down the shore with a friend on Monday. It would be her longest drive so far, by far.
When she got her driver’s license it brought a whole new set of adventures, experiences, independence! This would be the best one yet! It also brought a whole new set of worries, anxieties, and fears for me.
So when she told me about her road trip, my first inclination, my very first thought was Why? Why do you have to do that? You could get lost. The 17 year old minivan you’re driving could break down. You could have an accident. You could get carjacked, for chrissakes!
And then I thought, I can say no. She’s still my kid. I’m still in charge… sort of.
But why would I say no? The only reason I have to say no is my own fear. My own desire to be in control. My own desire to help her avoid any and every difficulty. What about my desire for her to live an exciting life, full of challenge and adventure and surprise?!
Why weren’t my first thoughts, Oh wow! That will be so much fun! Driving with the windows rolled down! and the radio blasting! screaming lyrics to the their favorite songs! Embracing the experience! Feeling the joy!
Why were my first thoughts from fear? And not from joy?
As parents we think that we want what is best for our kids. But we don’t, not really. We just want what WE think is best for them. And that may not be what is actually best for THEM. We have to slowly, over time (beginning the moment they are born) let go of OUR ideas of their lives, and let them go actually live THEIR lives.
And even though fear may guide our first thoughts, we should never decide from those fears. We should never decide from our discomfort. Never decide from our desire to be in control. It is much better to decide from hope. To decide from joy. To decide from a desire to experience, to enrich, to challenge, to grow. So that they can become fully independent, fully actualized, fully authentic.
So, of course, My big kid went down the shore and had a fantastic day with her best friend. And I only searched for her iPhone 3 times the whole day.
All right… 5.
It’s not like I implanted a GPS tracking chip under her skin or anything… I’m simply trying to be a good mom.