It has been said that the greatest and almost unbearable loss is when a parent loses a child. Often, this loss is equated to the death of a child, but not always. Recently, a friend related how he and his son, BB were not on speaking terms for quite some time. He had to ‘play the man card’ by reminding BB that men don’t fight like women by not speaking to each other. It worked and they are back on speaking terms. In the course of this story, another person listening said, “children don’t even need to have a cause for a disagreement when they stop speaking to a parent, they may simply outgrow being parented.”

I mulled over this statement and my first thoughts were how sad, that is the possibility of a child outgrowing their parents and resisting any form of contact. That must be similar to losing a child in death. However, there were still some questions unanswered. At one point does this dichotomy take place and can it be prevented? Perhaps, it begins with parent-child disagreements. Such disagreements are common place in certain cultures and quarrels could take on an even more intense form than others. Things flare up when a child feels restrained and he/she rebounds with a statement specially crafted to create some pain in the parent’s heart. In the heat of the argument, the child pulls out the final trump card that puts the kibosh on the boiling pot of don’t tell me how to live my life. Did I ask to be born?

That question is leaden and laced with selfish thoughts. When things were going well: your friends loved you, and living was good, that question never popped into the child’s mind. However, at the moment when life is spiraling out of control and the child can’t seem to get a handle on life as it happens, the blame is shifted to the human source of his/her existence. We will call it what it is: Immature, Irresponsible, and Unloving. Still, what about that child that doesn’t have such open arguments with a parent but gradually releases the seams of control, like a dress that fits too snugly and has to be tugged on gently until it is over the head and discarded for good?

In the novel I am currently reading, the protagonist is describing to her childhood friend how the city they currently live in has changed a lot. Despite the fact they have both been out of that city for a good amount of time, she proposes that maybe the city had not changed so much. A decade ago, they viewed the city through the eyes of children and now that they were full grown adults, although living in “a familiar place,” things were a lot different. Children who outgrow their parents may go through a similar process.

A child raised in a comfortable environment has few needs to care for and his joy is easily increased by an occasional treat. Parents are viewed as demi-gods for they could do no wrong. By adulthood, the “do no wrong” scales fall off from their eyes and are replaced by “a fault-finding” pair of lenses. The mistakes that a parent may have made come to full glare and a child could wonder, what if my mother hadn’t done…., what if my father had done….Could things have been better? How different would my life have turned out to be? In cases where feelings of resentment and missed opportunities accompany the answers to the “what ifs”, the child indeed outgrows the parent and seeks that conceived utopic environment that encapsulates what could have been.

There are a ton of buried skeletons in each family’s closet and the unlocking process means meandering through a web of conflicting emotions, each strand intricately woven, but easy to snap. In as much as I would love to take sides with the child who can’t get past some issues or pretend that I have never been in the same boat, I can rightly state that children are a risky investment. They are more risky than having all your life savings in the artificial financial balloons inflated right before the 2008 Great Recession. You get the picture. As to those unanswered questions, maybe J.P. Clark could drop some golden nuggets in “Streamside Exchange.”

Child:     River bird, river bird

                Sitting all day long

                On hook over grass,

                River bird, river bird,

                Sing to me a song

                Of all that pass

                And say,

                Will mother come back today?

Bird:       You cannot know

                And should not bother;

                Tide and market come and go

                And so shall your mother.

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