Disappearing again

Yesterday we discussed how a creator disappears behind her work.

Parents disappear behind their children. I’ve been watching this happen over time, and not just in my own family but in other places as well. When the family unit is in need, it’s the mother who “disappears” behind the child/ren.

I’ll get roasted in the comment box, but it’s true, isn’t it? The purpose of motherhood and fatherhood is to raise children to become independent adults. In order to do that, we need to guide the children and then begin letting go of them, stepping back, and allowing them to make their own decisions. Allowing them to suffer their own consequences while remaining their safety net. We make suggestions and appropriate to their level, we allow them to make their choices.

It begins with, “Would you like this red shirt or this yellow shirt?” Yes, at age one the mother is just picking out her kids’ clothing, and she’s probably picking the shirts she likes best. By age three, the child is probably asking for his favorite shirt, and the mother yields. If the mother were to refuse to wash the favorite shirt, or hide it because she preferred a different shirt, you’d flinch and think something was wrong.

Moreover, you get the concept of the “stage mom” when the parent refuses to separate his own identity from that of the child. Dad is the one who wanted to act, so he forces his son to try out for the play and then is angry when his son doesn’t get the lead. We cringe when we hear about that kind of thing because the parent hasn’t disappeared.

Appropriately and slowly the parents disappear. I like karate. My kids no longer like karate. Guess who is no longer taking karate? And so it goes.

By the time my children enter the world, they’re imprinted by their parents, “sealed” in a way, but the parents aren’t the forefront any longer.

It’s like creating a book in its own way. Overtime, the child’s “voice” becomes the adult voice, the one you hear rather than his parent’s voice. Unlike in art (or if Cricket’s comment wasright, exactly as in art) the “best” parents would be the ones whose influence was most present without being obviously there. You’d find it, in the values and the child’s core self-confidence, but not right at the surface.

I think it’s a good thing. In a way, detaching from our children helps us detach from the parts of ourselves that we don’t need anyhow. Raising a child means accepting that someone else’s needs are more important than our wants, and for a while, the little ones need everything.


  1. cricketB

    When I started singing lessons, I saw the kids’ preschool music teacher in the building and told her I was “cutting out the middle man.” She smiled.

    I didn’t realize I was trying to say that — and like it! Influence present, but not obvious.

    I think raising kids helps us pare down what we need, so we have resources (time, energy, $) to give them what they need, but as they start doing for themselves it’s a chance for us to look carefully at what we add back into our own lives. Sort of like editing a manuscript. First we cut it back to the bones, then flesh it out again with more care.

  2. Ken Rolph

    You haven’t quite understood what parents are for. They are there to do all the grubby, inconvenient, difficult bits of upbringing.

    So the grandparents can spend all their time on the fun bits with the kids.

    It’s so obvious to me, I don’t know why you can’t see it.

    1. philangelus

      Parents disappear so we can reappear as grandparents. 🙂