Raising Independent Children – and facing the consequences

Anna – self-portrait, circa 2000

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

What was I thinking when I thought putting myself out of the parenting job meant the ultimate success as a parent?

The greatest piece of parenting advice I’d ever received, I liked to brag.

Several years back, my daughter called me to give me some news. She was newly graduated from college, but we lived in the same town in Florida.

“I’m moving to Portland, Oregon,” she said when she called.

I managed a few questions, such as, “When?”

“In a month,” came the unwanted reply. I offered a word or two of encouragement before we ended the conversation.

She wisely chose to present this bit of news right before she went to work and twenty-four hours before we planned to get together for dinner. My daughter knows me well.

Anna on the coast of Oregon, 2008

I spent the next twenty-four hours composing myself and stemming the tears every time I imagined the breadth of this country where Oregon sits as far west as I could imagine, and Florida lies as far south and east away from it.

I called a friend and sobbed, “Anna’s moving to Oregon.”

My friend let me carry on for a few minutes, before she said, “But remember, you raised her to be independent and free-spirited and to follow her dreams.”

“And what was I thinking?” I asked.

But I knew my friend held the answer. My ex-husband and I raised this independent creature whose first complete sentence set the pace for the road ahead.

“Me do it myself,” Anna said before her second birthday.

Independent child does it herself

We should have done something then because in retrospect it’s abundantly clear that our daughter would do exactly what she wanted when she wanted to do it. If only we’d tethered her to the bedpost the day of the first sentence perhaps, she’d remain in close proximity to me for the rest of my life.

As the day of her departure drew closer, I fluctuated between sadness for myself and happiness for her. Happiness won out as I saw my daughter grow up as she prepared to travel cross-country with most of her belongings.

Her father is a freelance artist, and as a child, Anna watched him draw portraits or logos for clients. Often, she went with him when he delivered the products and received a payment in return. Afterwards, they’d go buy groceries. One day when Anna was five, she wanted to buy something at the store. We told her we didn’t have the money. She didn’t say anything, but turned around and went into her bedroom. In a few minutes, she returned with a drawing of her own design.

“Now we can go to the store,” she said proudly holding out her offering that she planned to present to the cashier in exchange for the item she wanted.

So what was I thinking?

I hoped my daughter would turn out exactly the way she is as an independent, free-spirited woman possessed with the ability to follow her dreams.

With my independent daughter

 

9 thoughts on “Raising Independent Children – and facing the consequences

  1. A friend of mine went through the same thing with her married daughter. I told her not to worry because it wouldn’t take long before she would be a grandmother, visiting her daughter and babysitting. (Sometimes I thought I knew her daughter better than she did.) Sure enough, it wasn’t long before her daughter had a beautiful baby girl and my friend was facebooking photos to everyone pushing her granddaughter in a baby carriage. I think that’s the way you have to look at it: her moving away gives you the opportunity to enjoy a long visit with her after she gets settled in.

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    • She lived in Oregon for five years and has returned to the east coast now. I visited her five times and I flew her home about the same amount during that time. I so enjoyed visiting Oregon, too. It became a real bonus to explore a place I’d never visited. I think I pulled this column out and dusted it off and revised it because she’s visiting me this week. We’re having a super time together as always. When I see some of the grown children of others I’m grateful that I helped raise an independent and interesting young woman. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. I’m an independent daughter to raised an independent daughter. I live in Canada, she currently works in North Carolina. Our moments together are on the phone. skype or cherished times visiting one another. One part of me hates it – it wish I had a clingy daughter who lived next store. The other part of me is proud I raised such a wonderful person.

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    • I so agree, Victoria. It’s a mixed bag of emotions, isn’t it? But my daughter is here with me this week and we so enjoy being together. I wonder if it would be as sweet if we saw each other every day?

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  3. What a beautiful post. I begin my own journey when my 1st child arrives into this world next month. I’ve dreaded the idea of having to care for someone helpless 24/7 for the rest of my life until I made the pregnancy into a nightmare countdown. I look forward to the words, “Me do it myself,” as soon as possible so I can have a life.
    You made me look at things very differently.

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    • Jennifer, You’ll be a fine mother. It’s been a bittersweet experience that’s for sure. Independence is the key and today, that little girl is a grown woman who I would chose as a friend if she wasn’t my daughter. I hope she feels the same way. My best to you as you get ready to embark on this wild journey.

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      • Thanks P.C. Zick. You gave me a whole other perspective. And the fact that my mother is my ALL-TIME-BEST-FRIEND whom I call 5 times a day, I like to think (just maybe) this mother-daughter thing won’t be as tricky as I foresee!

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  4. I love this post–thank you so much! My daughter, age 23, stunned me by announcing that she was moving to Wrangell, Alaska, after college. She’s doing work that she loves, and says she probably won’t ever leave the west coast. She’s over 3,000 miles away, but I try not to think about the distance…only about how strong she is, and how engaged in the world.

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    • Holly, That’s the right attitude. At least with our technology we can stay in touch easily. The time zone difference can sometimes be a challenge but we managed it. Thanks for stopping by.

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