How do you differentiate your own expectations from those of your growing child?
As I was scanning Twitter last night, I was drawn to friend and colleague Amy Gage's tweet about a parent's essential task -
"My work is to give you what I know of my own particular path
while allowing you to walk your own."
Ta-Nehisi Coates from Between the World and Me
This caught my eye because I am the parent of increasingly independent young adult children and also because I am very aware on a personal and professional level of how tangled parent/child relationships can become, for both parents and children.
In the next few weeks, I will be presenting to a group of parents who happen to have post high-school age children with autism and other developmental differences. I am focusing on "differentiation" - how we, as parents, can and must separate our own feelings, needs and expectations from those of our children.
Differentiation is a critical element of parenting for every parent, regardless of how our children appear in the world, and is much easier said than done.
While I share a lifetime of experience with my children and I am heavily invested in them, I am not them.
And more importantly, it is not their job to be me, or to be like me, or to even enjoy or appreciate the same things I do.
It is their job to be fully THEM, to explore, to find out who that is, to relish in the richness of who that is, without fearing judgment from me.
I build a safe, loving container for them to fly from me, to leave me, to find their own destiny - and if I am fortunate, they will circle back on occasion to give me a hug before they're off again.