Degrees of Separation

The six-degrees-of-separation concept posits that any two people on earth are only six or fewer acquaintance links apart. At this point in my parenting journey, I thought there would never be more than one degree of separation between me and my children. After all, I can text them whenever I want. I can and should be able to get to them in the blink of an eye or by a tap on my smartphone. Yet the text I sent my younger son two days ago remains unanswered. He’s busy. He’s working. He’s helping his older brother and his wife move. He’s living his life—apart from me.

My mother always said, “Be careful what you wish for,” and she was right. I wished for my children to be able to live lives that mattered, to be able to take care of themselves and others—to be independent. And they are. They live two thousand miles away from me, and I have to remember—I’m the one who moved!

But this independence thing may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that at this point we are no longer supporting our children financially. That, my friends, is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Sometimes, though, it’s other types of support I miss. Where there was fellowship, emotional caretaking, and spiritual navigation, there’s now a void. And the fact that I now have to watch The Walking Dead alone doesn’t help.

When I think back to how this state of independence came to be, I see it didn’t just happen. My husband, Chip, and I planned it. We put this in motion when we encouraged our firstborn to wait ten more minutes before we picked him up out of his crib and he slept through the night. I guess it probably happened even sooner than that. After all, we did cut the umbilical cord after birth. The first degree of separation between mother and child is natural and life-giving.

Be careful what you wish for? Yes, definitely, because it certainly might come true. For example, we want our child to sleep through the night, so we encourage him to do so, and then he doesn’t need us to sleep through the night. He is able to sleep through the night because we wanted him to. See how that works? It’s important to remember that you are still connected even if it takes a child three days to answer his mother’s text.


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