While I don’t know this from personal experience, it seems to me that the most difficult part of having children is letting go of them. By this I mean progressively giving them the space they need to develop personal autonomy (a sense of self); or, accepting that you cannot interfere in the natural development process, including when the process gets to questioning (if not rejecting) most everything you ever taught/gave. For any parents of college students who are reading this, I assure you that this is actually a healthy stage of their development.
And I should say that my parents handled this swimmingly (my 19 year-old self may not have said the same, as expected per the aforementioned process).
It is neat to now be at a place in life that sees myself as distinct from my parents (as opposed to the definition of self/values in opposition to them), while appreciating them in me as well.
Which brings me to this post.
As some of you know, I am quite infatuated with the notion of spirit animals, and I have long since self-identified as a monkey.
While traveling with a class last summer, I shared this fact and my professor protested, saying that I am an owl.
The reality is, I am both. My cohort friends tease me when they only see Owl Stacey for too long, insinuating she only belongs in the classroom. Come to think of it, they tease me when Monkey Stacey comes out as well, posturing that they must “brace themselves”.
In contrast to life at school, much of my interactions in Rwanda come from a place connected to Monkey Stacey. With the absence of language, abstract thought and reflection are a challenge to get across, where silly voices, ridiculous dancing, and general goofiness transcends culture and our language differences.
As I jaunted across the compound, making the kids laugh by shaking my hips, shrugging my shoulders, and bobbing my head to their radio music, it occurred to me how much Monkey Stacey is a mirror image of my father- particularly the Saturday morning variation from my childhood. With this discovery, I realized that Owl Stacey comes from my mother’s critical thinking skills, passion for learning, and diligent work ethic.
It made me laugh to think that, for a year, I discussed “the monkey and the owl” with friends but never traced their roots. And to see my parents’ touch on who I am- without my individuality feeling threatened- made me smile.
I love you, mom and dad.