I'm thinking about opportunities to connect and simply be with people, the ones that will make a difference years from now.
Here's a typical decision.
My d-i-l, an up and coming therapy doc, did something really wonderful. She's young and idealistic and she put herself on a registry that searches for people who agree to willingly go through dialysis to become stem cell donors. Plasma phoresis can be a brutal procedure. They stick a catheter in your vein for hours, perhaps in the neck. But there are types of leukemia that respond to healthy stem cells, and it's a rare opportunity to save a life. Her DNA made a match.
D-i-l went through dialysis for 6 hours, and days of hormonal preparation that made her sick and crazy (she felt a little off, she tells me). My son was with her the whole time.
It wasn't easy and it wasn't risk-free. Without the procedure, the person she matched (and she has no idea who this person is) had little to no chance of survival. We don't know if it worked, either.
So why do I mention this? Not to brag, although I'm incredibly proud of her and fall off my chair at the thought of these generous, wonderful, idealistic kids.
I mention it because healthy people her age (early 20's) are really independent. They'll tell you, I don't need you with me, and maybe they don't, but if you're not there when they need you, any procedure, even a minor procedure, can be a pretty lonely, empty, scary experience.
But the default for young people is often, "I don't need you, I'm cool." And sometimes they are, sometimes they're not.
If you offer therapy to a kid in college, it's likely the kid will say, "I don't need it." By the way, it's a GREAT time to get therapy, college, if you're lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to college.
It can be a real relief to parents when a kid says "I don't need it" when it comes to therapy And parents who are still on the fence about the actual benefits of therapy will say, "Okay, good."
You know what I say, right? Every one needs it, at least for a little while, at some point or perhaps several points in their lives, if only to deal with everyone else. So on that score, push the idea with your kid. Tell the kid to just go, try it.
Kids in their early twenties, even in their teens, maybe at any age, want to be independent and should be encouraged to be independent. But almost all of us have one foot in childhood, even if it's an unconscious foot.
That piece of us that's in childhood wants company. It's a healthy, social piece, assuming it's not a whiny, overly dependent personality disorder (we'll get to those another day).
I remember once telling my mother I'd stay overnight with her when she was in the hospital. She said, "No way, I don't need it," but she thanked me for it. I'm not patting myself on the back. I feel I'd have been a snail not to have stayed. It's not a question of being a good person. It's a question of quality time and being there for someone.
But back to young adults. When your kid is going through a medical procedure and tells you, "I can handle it alone; you don't have to be there with me," don't buy it. Be sure that SOMEONE in the family or perhaps a close friend is there. It doesn't have to be you, but someone.
If it is you, it's an opportunity. It's one of those snapshot memories you two won't ever forget. Remember the time. . .?
(As I was writing this I ditched the computer to get a cup of coffee and caught an NPR story on daughters pulling away from mothers during adolescence, and I thought how that ties into this, how it's not so easy to create these memories when your kid is itching for separation. So for sure, we'll have to talk more on that another time.)
But working people like me feel we've missed too many opportunities for intimacy with our kids. ANY opportunity you have to be alone with your kid that gets you out of the everyday hum drum is something to really consider seriously, if they'll let.
Sometimes you have to construct the opportunities, create them, take a kid on vacation overnight even, alone with you, perhaps. The time together doesn't have to be a medical procedure. Any time will do. Family vacations are fine, but they're also potentially really stressful.
Going fishing works, or to a spa maybe even. It can be hard to find a good hook.
In my family, going out and buying a new marine fish made for intimate snapshot memories. Picking it out, bringing it home. You bring fish home in plastic bags. Plastic bags can break.
These kinds of memories go in the What We Won't Ever Forget Book of Life.
You could be writing it right now maybe, at least working on the intro.
Copyright 2007, therapydoc