By Irene Caswell
When your son reaches a landmark 40th birthday, how does it affect your relationship as a parent? In my experience, when you also share a birthday, it has a tendency to mark the passing of time in larger print, and even more so, I found, this year.
Time to Recalibrate
The many stages of parenthood are well documented but not so much the parent-of-an-adult phase. I was surprised to find myself rethinking my parenting skills, once again, when my son recently celebrated his 40th birthday.
We live independent lives, and while I’m a planner and organizer, he’s a seat-of-your-pants kind of guy. Both behaviors have their plus and minus points and we generally work around each other when we meet up for dinner or a film a couple of times each month. It has become an unspoken tradition that we celebrate our birthday together for a few hours, but this year we spent three days exploring the city of Dublin, so it was an intense few days on airplanes, buses and taxis.
Celebrating 40 Years
While he was celebrating 40 years on the planet, I, of course, was celebrating 40 years of being a parent. Sounds obvious but think about it. For most of those 40 years, I have been a divorced parent and, while has was growing up, was used to making all the big decisions, taking all the responsibility and having all the answers (well, hopefully). The trip was one long negotiation about where to eat, which flight to take (he made the booking), what time to head back to the Airbnb apartment (his idea, turned out a really good one), which museums to visit, and which ones we would have to miss (so much to see, so little time).
As the days passed, I came to one of those quiet, but life changing, realizations. Despite feeling I had learned to let go when my son moved out of our home at 18 years of age, when a serious relationship ended and he was devastated, when he went traveling in the USA, and, yes, when he made mistakes and picked himself back up again, I still feel I need to have all the answers and, yes, as a mum, I still want to make everything better for my child. It is a default reaction. Once a parent, always a parent.
As a ‘baby boomer’ and a professional, I have always been self-reliant. I have not remarried (but never say never) and I’m used to taking care of myself. What I learned from our birthday trip is that it’s time to soften my parenting behaviors even further, including my sense of responsibility which is no longer required. I can let go of something I didn’t realize I was still carrying. I have permission. It feels right.
The Best Part
There’s something else too. Honey Good has written about embracing a man’s need to be needed in the dating scene. Well, that applies to the mother and son relationship too. Now, in my third age – or whatever you like to call it – our roles are subtly reversing. I can allow my son to do things for me in a much more significant way because he is a fully grown man, both emotionally and physically, which is actually a lovely thing.
About the Author
Irene Caswell is a freelance writer and public relations professional within the culture and lifestyle sectors. Her writing has included restaurant and exhibition reviews as well as travel features. From humble beginnings, she has embraced whatever life has thrown at her, including a career which has taken her to destinations and events involving people from all walks of life, from artists and craftspeople to racing drivers and members of the British Royal Family. Best of all she likes walking the beautiful beaches and countryside close to her home in Hampshire in the UK.
Images via Irene Caswell