Is there a magic cutoff period when
offspring become accountable for their own
actions? Is there a wonderful moment when
parents can become detached spectators in
the lives of their children and shrug, "It's
their life," and feel nothing?
When I was in my twenties, I stood in a hospital
corridor waiting for doctors to put a few
stitches in my son's head. I asked, "When do
you stop worrying?" The nurse said,
"When they get out of the accident stage." My
mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.
When I was in my thirties, I sat on a little
chair in a classroom and heard how one of my
children talked incessantly, disrupted the class,
and was headed for a career making
license plates. As if to read my mind , a teacher
said, "Don't worry, they all go through
this stage and then you can sit back, relax and
enjoy them." My mother just smiled
faintly and said nothing.
When I was in my forties, I spent a lifetime
waiting for the phone to ring, the cars to come
home, the front door to open. A friend said,
"They're trying to find themselves. Don't worry,
in a few years, you can stop worrying. They'll be
adults." My mother just smiled faintly
and said nothing.
By the time I was 50, I was sick & tired of being
vulnerable. I was still worrying over my
children, but there was a new wrinkle. There
was nothing I could do about it. My
mother just smiled faintly and said nothing. I
continued to anguish over their failures, be
tormented by their frustrations and absorbed in
My friends said that when my kids got married I
could stop worrying and lead my own
life. I wanted to believe that, but I was
haunted by my mother's warm smile and her
occasional, "You look pale. Are you alright?
Call me the minute you get home. Are
you depressed about something?"
Can it be that parents are sentenced to a
lifetime of worry? Is concern for one another
handed down like a torch to blaze the trail of
human frailties and the fears of the
unknown? Is concern a curse or is it a virtue
that elevates us to the highest form of life?
One of my children became quite irritable
recently, saying to me, "Where were you? I've
been calling for 3 days, and no one answered. I was worried."
I smiled a warm smile.
The torch has been passed.