Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and for some parents, that means more than turkey: The freshman they dropped off at college just a few months ago will be returning home for a few days. Probably for the first time since they left in September. My experience with this happened years ago and yet I still remember the poignancy of that "first Thanksgiving." How stunning and joyful it was to be reunited with our eldest child and to have her sleeping in her room on the third floor again. I also remember how excited she was to be off to visit her friends. A reminder, if we needed one, of how our adult children are moving away from us.
More recently, Kelly Corrigan wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times of the emotional experience of dropping off her daughter at college and of her excruciating awareness of the split path. Corrigan tells us that before she drove her child to campus she (and all other parents of incoming freshmen at her daughter's college) received an email from the campus psychologist. The message: limit contact with your child, including texts; this is a time for your child to "individuate and separate."
In grappling with this dictum--and coming to terms with her sudden awareness that she doesn't "own" her child--Corrigan writes that even though shegave birth to her child and she could trace many of her daughter's features to parents and grandparents, "I didn't have any ownership over her. Wherever she came out of and whomever she looked like and however much she needed from me, she didn't belong to me."
Corrigan turns to psychologists to square this realization. Here is what she says she learned from Ariel Trost about "letting go":
“If we can let go of this notion of ownership and see us as our own and them as their own, it can create a space to marvel,” she said. “Ownership is not closeness.”
Borrowing from Buddhism, Dr. Trost suggested aiming for a compassionate detachment. Not detachment from our children but from the outcome of who they are becoming. “We are working toward a place where we can enjoy each other,” she said.
painting: The Ferryman, Ivan Canu