Random-Lee: Good parents, bad parents

Last month my son Bayen left for Bend, Ore. Not on vacation, but for a wonderful new job opportunity, to live his life far away from us — about 3,000 miles away. I am so happy for him. I am so sad. I hope he is excited about this new adventure. I hope he is a little bit scared.

Happy because he is strong, independent, able to adapt and continue his journey through life on his own, away from his family and the friendships of his last 10 years in Boston. Sad because he is strong and independent and doesn’t need us nearby to guide and be a part of his daily life.

I remember having the same feelings when he left for college 14 years ago. MIT did not provide advance-housing plans; the students were meant to come to school a week early and look at available options and make a choice. So we took Bayen to the train station in Wilmington and sent him off, alone, with nothing more than a pack on his back. After all, didn’t it make sense for us to drive up later with all his stuff, after he decided where he was going to live?

Of course it did. So why was I crying and feeling so inadequate as a parent? Weren’t we good parents for letting him go to make his own choices? Or were we terrible parents for letting an 18-year-old go to a strange city on his own with just an acceptance letter in his pocket? Good parents for encouraging his independence, or bad parents who looked like they didn’t care?

These questions, good parent or bad parent, came back when Bayen left for Oregon. Now he joins young Eric in California and Bradley across the pond in London. Too far away to see frequently, too distant to know their friends and what their daily lives are like. They are all busy, developing careers and families, living lives that we can only visit occasionally and admire from afar. No daily telephone calls or Sunday dinners with the whole family.

Were we right to encourage them to be independent, to follow their dreams, to see the world as their oyster? Or did we deprive them of close family relationships, holidays with aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings who would be their best friends throughout their lives – like the way I grew up with both sets of grandparents just down the street. This question comes back frequently; good parents, or bad parents, better to have them need us or not need us?

I am reminded of my sister in Ohio whose four children all live within a half hour. She babysits for someone or other most days. Her schedule is filled with dance recitals, Little League games, and every holiday dinner at her house. And I think of my brother who still lives in our hometown, who still maintains close friendships with his old high school buds.

Why do some children stay close to home as adults while others go off to far away ports? And what role do we play in those decisions? Should we encourage our adult children to come home and be a part of our lives, or encourage them to go off and build their own? Do we teach them to be strong and independent, to not need us? And if we do, how do we not regret it when they are so far away and living their own lives without us?

I certainly don’t have the answer, but I think about it often and wonder how other people feel about this dilemma…and how you deal with it? Good parents, bad parents? Any thoughts?

* Lee Miller welcomes responses. Please email them to leemiller229@gmail.com


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About Lee Miller

Lee Miller began her writing career with four books about Pennsylvania/east coast wines and the creation of Wine East magazine. She then went on to found the Chaddsford Winery with her husband Eric, where she turned her pen to promotion, advertising, public relations and marketing of their successful business venture for 30 years. Last year Lee co-wrote the new wine book, “The Vintner’s Apprentice” with Eric, and retired from the Chaddsford Winery to pursue other interests. She is currently working on a book about her life in the wine industry and exploring the retirement life. Her goal in writing a column for Chadds Ford Live is to generate dialogue and elicit reader response.



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