My 17 year old daughter, Elizabeth, has begun the college application process (yikes!). Her first assignment from her guidance counselor was to fill out an extremely extensive life review questionnaire. The question that really caught my eye asked, “What is the most significant event in your life to date and how has it affected your development?”
“What was that event for you?” I asked Liz. “Your divorce, of course,” she answered. “It was the worst thing ever in my life and it explains why my grades went down that spring.” Hmmmmm . . . the worst thing ever. From her perspective, it undoubtedly was. It was her personal Haiti. Her life seemingly collapsed — everything changed — and life as she knew it ended.
What’s a mother to do? My first response, upon hearing her answer, was grief on her behalf. Yes, I do know how scary and painful it feels when everything in life changes without our consent. My second response was guilt. I had ruined her life; my decision caused her this irrevocable pain. I was supposed to shield her from the harsh realities of sadness, loss, and irreversible change. Wasn’t I?
The thing is, I cannot protect her or any of my children from loss and change . . . those are the price tags for being alive. What I can do is love her calmly through every stormy emotion. I can witness her struggle as she pieces together what it means to grow up and into her full self. And I can assure her that in spite of deep sorrows, life is filled with ever renewing wonder.
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