"What a b---- he turned out to be." The b---- my friend Cate is talking about is her first-born, 25-year-old son. He got his MBA last June and finally landed a career job this fall. But when Cate and the proud papa emailed him with a request to stop by to see him at his office--they would be in the neighborhood--he sent this email: "I appreciate the gesture, but i think it's time for you to stop visiting me at my workplace."
A few months ago, when he had been a summer intern at a high profile government agency, she had asked to stop by--she wanted to see what the department looked like inside. "All I got to see was the lobby and the cafeteria, where I bought him lunch." Now she was feeling put out about not being welcome in his latest workplace--or this latest phase of his life.
"It's part of growing up," I tell her, "He's setting adult boundaries."
"He's pushing us away," she says.
Comes to the same thing, no? Helicopter parenting has a sell-by date. Our kids are no longer singing in the chorus of the school play or playing for the local soccer team. When it comes to their career, there's no seat in the cheerleading section for us.
Not that I don't sympathize with Cate. It's hard to let go of that desire to experience up close and personally the bits and pieces of our grown kids' lives--the way we did when they were little kids and living under our roof. Our very own Uber son dis-invited us to his adult soccer league games. There were some hurt feelings on the parental side, but the only ones watching the game are a handful of girlfriends and wives. Having mummy or daddy there would probably make him feel, well, like a little boy. An office workplace has even higher stakes.
No one said letting go was easy. It's hard sometimes for us to believe there are boundaries between us and our children. But there are and should be. At least Cate's son was polite about laying down his mark.