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The incredible power of choice

My daughters teach me. Everyday. I am humbled and truly touched when they express their love for me by taking time to set me straight, to help guide us into an adult parent/adult child relationship.

Those years I was able to stay home with my children as they grew will forever be a blessing I treasure. Yet, life advances.

The evolution from being a parent of a young child to the parent of an adult child its quite fascinating. I’ve been reviewing and analyzing my behavior throughout the ‘adulting’ years. Though, to be honest, I am not certain of who was ‘adulting’ — me or my daughters.

It’s unlike any other process the human adult might go through. It’s coated in love and laughter and smiles and tears and heartache and unknown and yes even sometimes fear. But in the end, it must occur. It must take place if you want to have an equal, lasting relationship. If the goal is to remain connected as adults, the journey must be traveled.

As I was making this transition I accumulated my bumps and bruises. I still trip from time to time. I’m not perfect. But what I’ve come to accept — no, learn — is that these amazing adults exist only in part because of their parents. When they grow into independent individuals they can no longer be controlled by a parent’s wishes. And isn’t that what every parent hopes for? To raise children who are kind, respectful and loving — into adults who have passions and interests all their own, not simply cookie-cutter from what they saw displayed growing up. We strive to add more humans to the planet who are independent thinkers and can make decisions for their own well-being.

Whatever choices our adult children make, whether they pan out to be right or wrong, they are their choices as adults. We need to celebrate the fact that they made the choice. They were able to choose a direction and reroute when necessary.

Just like any other adult friend, we can’t know their specific situation just because of the blood tie. A few years ago, I learned a very valuable lesson. It has completely changed how I approach conversations.

My daughter called me. She was expressing a situation she was experiencing. I was still in parent mode, forgetting entirely that we were transitioning. She, however, was not in child mode. So, while I was listening with a parent’s ears wanting to desperately fix her problem, she was speaking as an adult. The lesson I learned — that she took the time to teach — was invaluable. I clearly hear her saying, “Mom, I don’t need you to fix it. I just need to vent and for you to listen.”

What became clear to me in that moment was quite simple really. Many of life’s milestones leave us vulnerable. When others confide in us, we need to respect their journey. When we direct people’s decisions and actions we are placing ourselves in a position of authority, thereby removing the power from individual. That is not love. The only person we have true power over is ourselves. Our actions are the only ones we can control. Listening and letting others know they are not alone is sometimes the best support. Many people when faced with a friend-in-need are at a loss as to what to do or say. Their discomfort creates an exit for them to disappear quietly from our lives. My daughter and I didn’t. We helped each other grow.

I’ve noticed this same phenomenon occurs in the lives of individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer. There is much uncertainty surrounding them and those who love them. All their life’s circumstances have dramatically and rapidly changed. The cancer patient has a lot of decisions before them. Should they get a second opinion? If treatment is to happen in a different community than where the patient lives how will transportation work? Do they know someone who can drive them to various, sometimes daily, treatments? How should diet or lifestyle change? How does one decide — western medicine, alternative therapies, eastern philosophies, and spiritual guidance?

We each need to respect the right of the individual to make their own choice. It is their life. If we want to be a part of their journey, we must allow them space. It is scary. There are many unknowns. But in life, with or without cancer, unknowns exist. We think we have a plan. Perhaps that is our biggest charade – thinking we have control over tomorrow. The only aspect of our lives we can control is ourselves. Make the choice that is right for you.

Lesslee Dort, an Alpena native, is a board certified patient advocate who firmly believes knowledge is power when it comes to being in control of one’s health. She spends her days helping others navigate their healthcare and her free time exploring. Reach Lesslee via email lesslee@friendstogethermi.org. Read her here the third Thursday of each month.