A light in the darkness

While I was up in the islands I stopped off on Orcas to visit my daughter at the camp where she's working this summer. Sadly, she was running a fever of 102. I was pretty worried, as was she; we discussed bringing her back to Shaw so I could care for her, but we decided even the trip over might be too much for her, so I left her in care of the camp. The camp has a health center, and the island has a medical clinic (which Shaw does not), so I knew she would be in good hands.

I thought about calling the camp yesterday to see how she was doing, but ... well ... she's 23, and she's gotten annoyed with me in the past for being over-involved. So I decided they would call ME if it was anything serious, and if I hadn't heard from her (she usually checks in once every 2 or 3 days) by this morning I'd call the camp.

Fortunately she sent me a text this morning. Unfortunately it was to say she was still in the health house, now on antibiotics for strep throat, and she was hurt that I hadn't called the camp to see how she was doing.


I remember now, when I was pregnant, worrying about whether I'd be able to handle the demands on my time, the diapers, and the sleepless nights.  I worried about the teenage years, too, and hoped I'd be able to build a better relationship with my girls than my own mother had with me.  But no one ever explained that parenting children once they're grown is every bit as challenging (if not more so) than parenting infants, toddlers, pre-teens and teens.   Not on the same day to day level, of course (at least, not if they're not living with you) -- but certainly on a human to human level.

And the issues, in a lot of ways, are the same: how do we balance their need for independence with their need to be cared for and protected? Not to mention balancing our own desire to love and protect them with our desire for their independence.  Everything is always changing, and we have to be very light-footed about the dance of keeping up with those changes.  And, at the same time, we have to be careful not to get defensive when we over- or under-step those constantly shifting boundaries.

Like this tail-light, we do our best, as our children are growing up, to serve as indicators.  We do our best to let them know when they need to put on the brakes, when it's time to back up and try again, when they need to turn away or toward a stated goal.  We warn them when we're concerned they might be in trouble.  And we try -- as best we can -- to continue to be a light in their darkness.

But just as the electrical systems in cars tend to deteriorate with age, our parental signals for what to do when seem increasingly less clear over time.  Perhaps, at that point, what matters most is just that we continue to serve in that final role; to do our best to be for them a light in the darkness, helping to guide them home.


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