I once overheard two people debating the following subject: at what point is a Jewish fetus considered a living being? The first person suggested that it occurs at the time of conception. The other's opinion was that it only happens when the child graduates from medical or law school...

Parents will do almost anything for their children. They endure many sleepless nights during the infant years, attending to every physical and emotional need of the child. When the child enters school age, parents spend a great amount of time and money ensuring that their children receive the best possible education. During the teenage years, parents' sleepless nights are often spent worrying about what trouble their teenagers may be getting into. A mother once told me, "Little kids don't let you sleep; big ones don't let you live." Another said, "Little kids you carry in your hands; big ones you carry in your head."

But one thing that may parents find difficult to do is to allow their children to actually be born—to become a entity in their own right!

A couple once came to see me about a very urgent matter. They were in a near-hysterical state. They told me they had two children, whom they had put their whole life and soul into raising. The problem was that their daughter was getting married and was planning to move thousands of miles away from where they live. They felt as if their entire life was coming to an end. They had always imagined that their daughter would live nearby, and they would be able to watch their grandchildren growing up.

How could they stop her? They had repeatedly explained to their daughter how much it would mean to them if she and her fiancé would choose to live near them. They had obviously caused her to feel guilty for making her own choices of where to live.

The daughter and her fiancé were both upset. They felt that it was not right to have so much pressure put on them, since the place where they had chosen to live best suited their careers as well as their social choices. As a result of this conflict, the family was beginning to drift apart.

I asked the parents what they really wanted for their children. They replied, "Whatever they want, as long as they are happy. That is all that matters. But if only..."

In order to control the choices of their adult children, some parents may use methods such as guilt, or withholding financial and/or moral support. They tend not to realize that by doing so they are likely to cause a number of problems. Their children will feel deprived of the freedom to live a life of their own choice. This will create resentment towards the parents. Secondly, once a few years have passed, the parents themselves will start to feel guilty as they begin to realize and acknowledge the freedom they have taken away from their children. All in all, it is a lose-lose situation.1

As human beings, we need to get used to the idea that "if we don't get what we like, we'd better like what we get." I told the parents to concentrate on the fact that their daughter is getting married and she is happy. She has a profession, and they, as parents, have brought up a happy human being who is now ready to take on the challenges of life. Although it may well be geographically difficult to see their grandchildren, they will at least know that when they proclaim, "As long as you're happy, that's all we want for you," they really mean what they say.