Some people try to vicariously live their lives thought their children. The soccer mom phenomenon where parents need a Day Timer or a PDA to organize the kid’s schedules from the play date at 10:00 AM for the 3 year old to the guitar lessons, hockey practice, and dance lessons for the 10 year olds.
You have to wonder what all this micromanagement is about? Kids don’t have time to play in the mud, lay on their backs and make up stories about the shapes of the passing clouds, or look for the constellations of stars in the night skies any more.
Older parents in their 60s when they reach retirement age are hoping that the kids and the grandkids are going to fill up their empty hours when the adult kids have work, raising children, and civic activities. These adult children don’t have the time, energy, or interest to be babysitting or be the recreational director for their aging parents. I imagine these adult children wanting to say to their hovering and smothering parents one of the high school put downs “Get a Life!”
This unhealthy preoccupation with one’s children, whether when they are young or when they are adults, is perhaps related to the fact that these parents never created a life of their own. I often, in counseling, wind up saying to people in this situation, “You need to be more selfish.” People of course recoil when they hear my suggestion since they have been told since they were children that it is wrong to be selfish. So for a while I changed my wording of the idea and said that people should be more self serving, but self serving implies that people are manipulative, and exploiting or using other people. I expressed my dilemma to a client during a session that I couldn’t quite find the right word and she said to me, “Oh I know what you mean Dave, you mean self – help.” I said, “Exactly, that’s a great word for the idea, self-help.” A few weeks later I was reading a book and the author said everyone should be self – fulfilled, and I thought to myself, that’s the word I have been looking for all these years, self-fulfilled. Everyone should be self-fulfilled. Don’t be placing the burden of self-fulfillment on your children whether you are in your 30s and your kids are in elementary school or you are in your 60s and your kids are in their 30s and have families and lives of their own.
As Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a bigger influence on children than the unfilled life of the parent.” And as Pink Floyd sang “…leave those kids alone!”