Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Get out of my sh&#!

When my son was about 16 he did his best to let me know he had had enough ...

Enough of me constantly checking on his classwork through the satanic program that allows parents of high school students to check in on their student's daily assignments, homework and test scores.

I refused to give up.

Will was different in his approach to schoolwork than were his two older sisters.

He really didn't care that much about acing quizzes, doing extra credit, pleasing the teacher or generally doing all the things that make public school situations work well.

Don't get me wrong: Will is super smart (mom brag, sorry).

But he didn't like to have a bunch of people checking in on him all the time, especially yours truly.

He tried in every way he could to let me know I was overstepping my bounds, but I simply refused to listen.

I refused to trust him.

I balked at him watching TV when I knew (because I checked that darn homework tracker!) that he was missing assignments.

I relentlessly asked him about upcoming quizzes.

I hounded him about getting his required number of practice minutes done each week before his violin sectional.

Finally, since I was blind to his request to let him start to learn to manage his own life, he started to blow.

Eventually he called in his dad, I think.

Fighting ensued between my husband and me.

Finally Chuck blew, too, and said to me with the most serious eyes: "If you don't stop this, you are going to crush his soul."

Complete quite in the home ...

I don't think I talked to either of them for 48 hours, mainly because I was so ashamed of myself.

But this was the wake-up call I needed. I did not want to crush my son's soul. I just wanted him to get all his work done.

Never did it dawn on me that perhaps he was choosing NOT to get his work done BECAUSE I was breathing down his neck.

Never did it dawn on me that the only real way he was going to learn to be his own man was if I stepped back and allowed him the freedom to become himself.

But Chuck's words made something dawn ...

And so I stepped back. I stopped checking the online homework obsession creator. I let Will manage his own academic life.

And guess what?

He soared. And is still soaring.

Said to me later that year: "Mom, you got out of my sh$! and I got my sh$@ together."

Big smile. (Sometimes when your kid swears, it is a really, really good thing.)

Is it time for you to get out of any part of your becoming-an-adult-child's sh$! so that they can do the hard, but life critical work of getting their own sh$& together?

You can do it. Trust me.

 

Our unlived lives ...

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.

I remember reading this quote from the psychologist Carl Jung when I was in the messy midst of parenting three teenagers.

I had been conflicted all of my parenting years about working outside the home versus being available to my family. 

As I was in the process of pushing each of my birds out of the nest, this quote was a strong motivating force that pushed me to invest deeply and meaningfully in my own life as a person, not only a mother, as my children began to leave home for wider skies.

Parents, as our children make the journey into adulthood, it is crucial that we, too, make our own journey ...

A journey more deeply into our own "lived lives," to use Carl Jung's language.

It is critical that we live our own lives, so that our young adult kids can live theirs freely and fully without the drag of our "unlived lives" weighing them down.

Wherever we are in the parenting process, let us make time to truly live.

It is one of the very best gifts we can give to our children.

 

Make the transition ...

Point #10 in my Top 10 List for Parenting Adult Children is "Make the Transition."

By this I mean that both the becoming-an-adult child and the becoming-the-parent-of-an-adult-child parent must gradually, slowly, in fits and starts, make the transition from the stage of overt parenting to the stage where the parent plays more of a consultant role.

This transition is hard for all kinds of reasons.

For parents, we have spent 18 years or so being on-the-job, teaching, training, advising, coaching, disciplining, modeling, telling, explaining, etc. It is a formidable task to make the transition to a more "hands off" approach. Especially as our little birds fly from the nest and want to try out their own wings without us flapping around making sure they remain in the air.

And yet it is mandatory for our little birds' successful flight experience to flap and flutter on their own. To try things and fail. To experiment a bit. To test their wings. They won't do this well if we don't express trust in them and trust in the process.

At the same time, we don't need to completely step out of the picture. I often hear parents say, "Well, once my child turns 18, that's it. He's on his own." I bite my tongue, but often want to say, "Seriously? You think your fresh-faced 18 year old doesn't need your wisdom? Your occasional advice? Your gentle coaching and encouragement? Good luck with that."

The gradual transition from parenting children to parenting adults is unique to each parent-child relationship, and is often an uneven, awkward and imperfect transition.

Usually starting around the time our teenagers can drive, parents need to practice giving new responsibilities to our fledgling adults. The more they demonstrate maturity and wisdom, the more responsibility we give. If they show us they are not yet ready for more responsibility, we don't berate them for this fact. We simply (and I know this is not simple!) slow down the process and continue to provide them encouraging shelter until their wings are strong enough to keep them afloat.

The danger comes when the person on either side of this equation refuses to start to make the transition. Parents try to over-parent. Young people act like complete fools. Moms won't release their child to live out their own dreams. Dads demand their sons play football like they did, or that their daughters follow in their career path. Danger. Always danger. (More on this tomorrow)

Where are you in this transition?

How is your child navigating it?

Are you letting go too quickly allowing your child to flap, fail and fall?

Or are you hanging on well past the point of overt parenting and cutting short the necessary process of independent wing-flapping that eventually leads to strong, powerful, independent flight?

Great questions to ask ourselves as your kids move from the teenage years off to college and beyond ...

(Yea, Alice, great questions ... but you know what? This is really, really hard. This is incredibly confusing and rife with potential conflict. Emotions are hot. Feelings get really hurt. Bad things happen. Words get said that can't be forgotten.)

Please don't hear me say this is easy. I know it is not. I have battle scars, too. Let's keep talking, praying, trying things out, cheering each other on, picking each other up. One step at a time ...

More soon ...

 

We're All Grown Up ...

I recently delivered a message at my church about navigating the sometimes choppy waters of the relationship between parents and their adult children - Friends and Family: We're All Grown Up

It came out of my ignorance, not my knowledge.

It flowed from my failure, not my success.

It stemmed from my pain, not my progress.

And it really resonated with people.

So, for the next few weeks or so, I am going to write more about this topic.

I created a Top 10 list of suggestions for healthy ways to navigate the waters of parents and adult children.

I will start with suggestion #10 (Make the Transition) for my next post and will write about that until everything I know about it (or think I know) is tapped out. Then I'll move to #9 and so we will proceed. I don't really know where this will go, but I am anxious to see.

The one thing I want to start with is this thought, however. 

Just because I taught about this topic, just because I am writing about this topic, just because I am in the middle of the reality of this topic with my own incredible adults (who are still my kids, of course) don't think that I don't struggle, and struggle alot.

I do. I struggle. A lot.

I loved this quote from Rilke, for it describes what I so often feel and can't quite find the words to say:

“Do not assume that [s]he who seeks to comfort you now, lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His [her] life may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours. Were it otherwise, [s]he would never have been able to find these words.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

Do you get that? Do not assume that because I seek to comfort and to encourage, I live an untroubled life.

That is what I most want you to know.

I am in it with you. I share your joys, and I know your pain.

We're all in this together ...