Independence Day got me thinking about independence in general. You know how each of us is born totally dependent and almost from our first day of life outside the womb, the goal is independence. Sometimes, it is our own goal, while at other times it is the parents’ goal. In both cases we are headed away from dependence.

The dictionary defines independence as self-determination, freedom, liberty, self- reliance, and autonomy; all good goals for healthy and mature folks. We move toward independence in small steps and big leaps as we tumble our way through life.

Our first words and first steps are celebrated through the generations. Then, after a few weeks of jabbering and incessant motion, parents realize that the goal of walking, while developmentally significant, has brought new concerns to the household. Any mother of a toddler knows how often they say “Momma” or “Daddy” throughout the day, and how fast they can move, when eyes are averted for a split second.
These are some of our first adventures in becoming independent. There are so many more milestones ahead: Moving from elementary school to junior high to high school; graduations, first loves, driver’s permits and licenses. Oops! Then the parents’ worries are heightened again. How much freedom should they give; how much is this particular child able to handle; what are the best guidelines; and how will they manage college life?

As the brows furrow with worry, the years pass, and soon they are sitting at college graduation, wondering how well this adult child is prepared for the world of working, marriage, mortgages, and having children. And yet, while we were figuring out how much freedom to give them, they became independent before our own eyes.

They are working full-time, taking care of their own growing children, recreating in their favorite sport or pastime, and seemingly working toward the life you would want them to have; and all independently.

Oh, there can be difficult times—separations, divorces, health issues, selling of houses, moving away, and moving closer that happen in unpredictable ways, but somehow their abilities to be independent carry them through it all.

It brings us memories of our young adulthood; first jobs, first apartments, first children and first adult worries. We may see this as a good thing, or something that separates us from knowing our children’s needs. Either way, “it is what it is,” as they say. Whether it is children or grandchildren, once they are truly settled and independent, we can take a breath and know they will most likely be alright.
And then we begin to take stock of our own lives. Whew! Where has the time gone? How did it all pass by in what seems now to be the blink of an eye? Success! They made it, and we made it, too.

Depending upon our age when our children’s independence takes place, we may be a little like a 1930s song, “A Little Bit Independent,” with lyrics by Edgar Leslie and music by Joe Burke:

“A little bit independent in our walk; A little bit independent in our talk
A little bit independent when we dance; A little bit independent toward romance.”

There will be times we have to become a little bit dependent, or interdependent, whether we like it or not. We may struggle financially if we live longer than we expected; our fixed income may not allow us to stay in our homes; our health may deteriorate to the point where we must accept help in some form.

Since from birth, we have been striving for our independence, dependence of any kind may feel like a step backward.

Someone once told me that I was too independent for my own good. I was never sure what that meant, but it didn’t seem like a positive thing. Maybe I will also become too dependent for my own good, but I probably won’t know what that means either.

Whatever the case, we can try to remain a little bit independent in our walk, and in our talk, and when we dance, and toward romance. Edgar Leslie had it right.

I will, if you will!