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Separation Relief

© 1999, by Lisa M. Roberts

It's "Birthday Week" at the Roberts Household and I am presently immersed in milestones. My oldest child, Jessica, is turning twelve this coming weekend and my oldest son, William, just turned nine this past weekend. Along with my daughter's birthday I am reminded that it has been twelve years since I've been working at home. And since two out of four kid-made Mother's Day cards on Sunday featured drawings of a computer and keyboard, I'm also reminded that everything I do and say in my children's sight is being examined, processed and ultimately judged by each and every one of them. (That's a lot of pressure for one parent to take, wouldn't you say?)
Another milestone this week involves an unusual field trip my daughter is on. Her entire Middle School sixth grade class left for upstate New York early Monday morning to experience "Nature's Classroom"...until Friday! For an entire week, she will be learning about nature through hands-on experiences in the lovely Adirondaks. Since my husband and I have never sent her away to sleepover camp, this is a turning point for all of us.
To make the separation anxiety sharper, all parents are instructed not to telephone their children unless there's an emergency. While we understand this is to keep the phone lines clear and distractions/interruptions down to a minimum, it did make the "Have a wonderful time -- don't worry about anything" harder to get out before she boarded the school bus.
But as always, there's a window of opportunity every time we're thrust outside our personal comfort zones. For Jessica, the opportunity is to learn about the great outdoors at the same time she begins to explore the world outside her parents' perspective. For five days, she will have no parental commentary on *anything* she experiences, nor will she internalize anything she witnesses from her parents' role modeling. This extended break from her parents' physical presence right before she turns twelve years old may turn her "separation anxiety" into some much-needed "separation relief."
In the meantime, I still personally feel like I'm under the microscope with the remaining children at home. My son William's Mother's Day card is a case in point. In it, he features a picture of a big heart and a small head, and writes:
"Dear Mom,
Remember what you told me.
No matter how big your brain is,
your heart has to be bigger.
Happy mother's day.
I hope you have a good one.
I love you.
P.S. SQUIRTLE!!!!!!!!!!!!"
(FYI, William is a "Pokemon" fan whose favorite super-monster is a character called "Squirtle." If any of you happen to have a son under 10 years old, you probably know what I'm talking about! "Squirtle" has grown to become my son's "Happy Thought." For instance, he asked the baker to draw one on his b-day cake, and whenever he wants a hug from me, that's been the "password" of late...)
William's card struck me as poignant for a number of reasons. First off, he clearly processed the message I was trying to get across after the Littleton, Colorado tragedy -- that a bright brain with a dim heart was a dangerous combination. Like Hitler, Scrooge and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the students who planned that massacre lost their hearts in pursuit of their "master minds"...and William, who happens to have a bright mind (and thankfully a bright heart!) himself, must be heeding my words.
Secondly, the rest of the card sends me the message that in his eyes, my work is full of love and "happy thoughts." The cover of the card has a clip-art picture of a computer system, with the character of "Squirtle" hand-drawn on the monitor screen, and the words "Happy/Squirtle/Mother's Day!" typed underneath. There's a cable drawn in marker from the computer on the outside of the card to a hand-drawn printer on the inside of the card. Inside, the words "The Magical Printer" is scrawled in blue marker above the printer, which is surrounded by three page printouts -- two of bright red hearts and one of a blue-green "Squirtle."
While I am not schooled in analyzing children's drawings, I can't help but open this card and hear the words "I'm watching you!" written all over it, and the message "I'm OK, You're OK" shining through too. Between the integration of love and work on the one side, and the large heart overriding the small brain on the other side, he sees what I do (work at home) and hears what I say (about current events) and repeats after me. He "gets it" least for now.
It's "Birthday Week" at the Roberts Household and I am presently immersed in heavy thoughts. (I guess that's why they're called mile stones?) I know I should "lighten up" -- especially with all this fresh Spring air around me -- but that microscope lense feels awfully heavy and frankly too close for comfort. But what can I do? I also know without a doubt that "separation relief" is around the corner for all of us, and when it comes I am certain it will come too soon.

Lisa Roberts is the mother of four, owner of The Entrepreneurial Parent, LLC and the author of How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business (Bookhaven Press, 1997). Copies of her book are available for purchase at EP and through Amazon.

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