67. Needing

Many creatures great and small, but not all of them, start out needing their parents. I’m not sure, but I think the complicated creatures need their parents longer than the simple ones. Human beings need them for years. The actual degree and duration of this dependency among humans varies greatly. Bill Cosby, in his book Fatherhood, points out that we are probably the only species that will let our offspring move back in with us after they leave.
Besides needing, people need to be needed, and for some people, this is one of the reasons to have children. To varying degrees, we want our children to need us, and also to varying degrees, we want them to stop needing us. If you watch parents bringing their children to day care centers, you can see a variety of dramas: The child who clings to the parent who is trying to leave, the parent who clings to the child who wants to go play, the two clinging to each other, the ones who don’t cling, and the mixtures of all these patterns.
The dramas can be comedies, tragedies, and/or melodramas. Seldom is there a neat arrangement wherein all players get precisely as much as they need and get needed precisely as they much as they need to be needed. Some people say that ideal situations like that would be boring. Maybe they would, but just once, I’d like to be part of one just to see for myself.
More typically, a parent is disgruntled because a son or daughter is too needy, or not needy enough. The son or daughter is annoyed because the parent is too needy, or too indifferent. Of course, ideally one grows up, and then afterwards becomes a parent, but growing up is not as clear-cut a process among us complicated creatures. A friend of mine once thought of starting a group called “Adult Children of Adult Children.” If we look carefully, most of us can find aspects of our parents that can remind us that they are models for us, but many of our parents grew up in a volatile world, and many of us grew up in another volatile world. Adults frequently describe each other and themselves as children, and the descriptions are sometimes flattering, sometimes not.
People do need each other in some ways, and they do need to be independent in other ways. For some people, the dependency/autonomy struggle, one of Ericson’s stages of life, is all of life. I hope you weren’t hoping for a profound statement at the end of this article. The closest I can come is that we ought to look at each person and ourselves closely, and try to notice what is needed and what isn’t.

Comments are closed.