Parents have a job that ends.
Unless something doesn’t go according to plan, and then sometimes a child may remain physically or mentally dependent on someone to care for their basic well-being. I can’t imagine any parent hopes for that kind of scenario. And, realistically, even that job ends eventually, even if it is by the death or disability of the parent, rather than the child growing out of the need.
Many young people, and even some who are not so young, speak of the challenges of “adulting”. This may mean that they did their own laundry or paid their own bills. It may mean something more advanced like signing a lease or buying a major appliance. It may even mean buying a home or getting married.
It essentially means doing something that they would not have been expected to do as a child. It means maintaining one’s own life without the intervention of a parent. And claims of “adulting” are often followed by “adulting is hard!”
On some level, being taken care of is profoundly appealing. Tuning out from the daily frustrations and concentrating on TV or video games, hanging out with friends – who wouldn’t want to avoid being the adult.
But parenting ends. The child grows up and takes on the practical reality of managing their life, and most parents realize that one of their goals as a parent must be to enable that.
For all meaningful purposes, my parents are gone. My mother died over ten years ago now, and had been far too ill for years before that to do any physical care for any of her children. My father is still alive, but has slid so far into dementia that his ability to care for himself is long gone.
So I am feeling acutely the reality that most of us will eventually no longer have a parent, and that loss can be difficult even if we are reasonably competent at “adulting”.
So now I wonder about divine parents. Many traditions see Father gods or Mother goddesses. This is probably one of the most common conceptions of deity. But what does that mean to have an eternal parent when the goal of parenting is for the child to stand on their own? Does the Father want you to grow out of dependence? Does the Mother want there to be a day when you figure it out on your own?
Or are we as humans doomed to never be spiritual adults, never really taking on responsibility for our own maintenance?
Or is there something wrong with the metaphor of calling them Mother or Father?
Does their divine parenting end? Do we ever grow up?