RELEASING THE KIDS

By NANCY PATRICK

I recently noticed, sitting on the church pew behind me, a young man I had known since his childhood. His mother introduced the beautiful young woman with him as his fiancée.

NancyPatrick

Nancy Patrick

My husband whispered in my ear, “Should we ask John Michael if he’s spray-painted any mailboxes lately?”

He was referring to an incident when John Michael, our next-door neighbor, was about 5 years old and spray-painted the brick housing of our mailbox with a bright orange paint. Later that day, I answered my doorbell to find John Michael’s mother holding him by the hand. He was quaking with fear, tears streaming down his cheeks. His little boy voice shook as he said, “I’m sorry I messed up your mailbox.”

For my husband and me, whose son was a teenager at that time, the incident seemed trivial and humorous. For the 5-year-old John Michael, it was utterly humiliating. As I looked at the handsome young man John Michael had become, standing next to his fiancée, I thought, “Why in the world would I bring up a painful memory to this young man and perhaps embarrass him in front of his future wife?”

I guess we adults are so far removed from our own childhoods that we forget these young adults are no longer those cute, mischievous kids we laughed at. They are struggling to establish themselves apart from their childhoods.

Someone once said, “God gave our children into our care for a season, but they are in our hearts for a lifetime.” My own son Jason is a wonderful 43-year-old man, but he is still my “baby.” I remember everything—and I do mean everything about his childhood. I know he wouldn’t appreciate my reminding him of his adolescent foibles any more than I liked it when my dad did it to me. Jason is a man now, not a child, and I must respect that. I have all my memories recorded for my own reflection, but I don’t have to remind him of things that might embarrass him.

Our grown children and grandchildren deserve the same respect we want for ourselves. They do not need us to remind them of past episodes we thought were cute or foolish or even reprehensible. We can be sure they have not forgotten them; they have simply moved on and grown up. So I did not remind John Michael of his childhood painting spree because I would never want to embarrass him in front of his fiancée.

We should appreciate our young adults’ accomplishments, love them, and keep our memories where they belong—in our minds and hearts or on the closet shelf for an appropriate time of remembering.

Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.

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