Hindsight Parenting: Cutting Cords
Five Things Hindsight Has Taught Me About Cutting Cords…and Cords That Cut
We all have heard the term, “cut the cord,” and most seem to generalize it to birth and our children’s transition to adulthood. However, that phrase is so much more. So-Much-More. Here are 5 things I have learned about cords and cutting:
Cutting the cord often signifies an ending–for the parent–but it is truly a beginning…for the child. The first time the cord is cut is literal and physical, but a beginning, a beautiful beginning. The tiny infant emerges from the dark in which he or she resided for nine months. It is his or hers first sweet breath of Earth’s life sustaining air. It is the eyes first experience of incredible and illuminating light. It is the ears first chance to clearly hear the veritable voices that will fill his or her head and heart for years and years to come. Cutting the cord frees the child so that he or she can be wrapped in the loving and awaiting arms of a mother who will cradle him or her in literally and figuratively for the rest of her live long life. It is often the first monumental and significant task of a father who with scissors in hand and tears in his eyes releases his child into the world. Cutting the cord is a beginning…
Cutting the cord or cutting A cord (no matter how small or how thick) is a necessity. There are moments, natural moments where we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have to let go; of control, of the wheel, of the rope…we have to cut a cord. Let your child ride his bike down the busy thoroughfare all by himself to get to school, or choose his or her outfits (or first pair of glasses). Leave them at their first sleepover, or a first job, and let them resolve a conflict with a close friend, a beloved teacher or a brutal boss. Letting go, letting them, letting your heart shiver and your hands shake will help your children become independent humans. So mamas and papas of the in-betweens, those 6-13 year olds, take a deep breath, step back, and for heaven’s sake unwrap the cord from around your wrist and give your children just a bit of room to make their own decisions and their own mistakes. Cut the control cord and you will find that your children are better for it.
Cutting the cord can be…well…cutting. So often we dream of utopian moments where your children sail through high school, drive away in a VW bug packed to the top of the distinctive dome on their way to college where they meet their significant other, graduate with honors, find a job and an apartment all in the span of four years. If the scenario continued we’d have our children marry after establishing a kick-ass career, and that moment…of course that iconic moment…where we watch our children walk arm and arm down a wedding aisle decorated with rose petals would be the ultimate and final cut-cord moment. But alas, it doesn’t always work that way. We must remember that. Sometimes the cord gets cut in ways that we don’t anticipate and because it sneaks up on us it can hurt. It can cut deep. It can feel as if the cut plunges deep especially when the parent doesn’t see it coming. An unexpected cut cord can come in many ways, the death of a child, an estrangement, a child who becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, one who breaks the law or is mentally ill—all can make it so that on some sad, super-dark day, or month, or year you watch helplessly as your child is torn from you, ripped out of your control, leaving behind a frayed cord that seems as if it will never be repaired. My dear parents, this kind of cord cutting is searing and cruel and not fair in so many ways. No matter. It happens. It hurts. It’s hell.
We really don’t CUT the cord. Huh? You ask. Well if you are lucky to have a quasi-normal parenting experience in which you get to watch and guide your child to his or her 18th birthday at which point he or she leaves for college or goes to work or travels the world, you will find that the “cutting cord” moment that you have dreaded doesn’t really take place. You see, what moms and dads of older kids know is that the cord is really a rope made of fine fibers. As they grow, those fibers wear away sometimes so slowly that one might not even realize that the “cord” that binds us to our children is fraying and getting weaker. And that “weakening and fraying” of the cord that connects us is truly wonderful because it means that our children are becoming stronger and absolute. So when the cord cutting time comes…or our PERCEIVED cord cutting time…it really isn’t as momentous and heart wrenching as we’d imagined it when our children were younger. The thinning out of that cord/rope makes it sort of easy to cut, just one quick slice and perhaps a long gaze while we watch them walk away feeling joyful and accomplished and completely satisfied with the freedom that comes from untethering.
Cord cutting never ends. It never really does because your role as a parent doesn’t end, not until the grave, and even then some of us may think that their parents are still somehow guiding them. And because parenting is an infinite career, we will forever find ourselves in situation where we can tether ourselves to our children or choose to cut that cord all over again. We will do it when our children choose where they live. We will have that chance when they choose with WHO they live. We will have a cord moment every time we witness them struggle, or want advice, or when they DON’T want advice. We’ll have to have a clearly severed cord when they have a family of their own and begin to travel down that parenting road. We will reminisce and smile, we’ll cringe and cry tears of joy and pain as we witness our very own children cut the literal and figurative cords. And when the day comes, down the line, when it is our time to leave this Earth, we will tell our children about the cord that began their lives. We will remember all the times that we cut the figurative cord to help them grow. But in the end we will remind them that it is the real and tangible bond of love that kept us and will keep us together for eternity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Image credit: (cc) AJ Cann]