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

The year mom swore a little ...

Ok, one last little bit of hard-earned wisdom about the power of laughter in the parent-adult child system, especially around the volatile holiday season.

One Christmas I ruined everything by trying too hard.

WAY too hard ...

My daughter was bringing home a new boyfriend.

My brother and his family were coming for Christmas Eve dinner.

I - in my own mind - was going to crush it.

I was going to do all the traditions, have a great tree, cook a superb meal, make everyone feel welcome, have a few little surprises for my nieces who are Jewish, get just the perfect gifts, blah, blah, blah ... you know the drill.

Whole dang thing went south on me because no one - especially my adult husband and my 3 adult kids - didn't cooperate with all my ridiculousness. How dare they?

So I spent the bulk of Christmas Eve in bed weeping, pretending I had the flu, while my entire family laughed and celebrated at my dining room table.

Sad.

The next year I came up with a new plan - This would be the year mom swore a little. (Or, a lot depending on the circumstances.)

This created all kinds of fun for everyone involved.

A well-placed, polite little swear-bomb can sure lighten the mood, people.

Especially when young adult kids push back on all our best-laid plans.

Happiest. Christmas. Ever.

Now, I know the Bible discourages coarse language. I get it.

But what do you think is worse?

A cry-baby mom in her bed thinking bad thoughts about her family on the eve of our Lord's birth ...

or a nicely placed little cuss word?

Laughter - it works every time.

Try it.

Set the whole thing trembling ...

I love me some Freddy Buechner ... a Presbyterian pastor with a knack for turning a phrase.

The smallest acts of kindness, even circumscribed within our own families, can, as Buechner says, "set the whole thing trembling ..."

Stay kind, my friends ... stay kind.

Kindness can change the world.

Listen to how Buechner puts it:

"Humanity is like an enormous spider web, so that if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling…

As we move around this world and as we act with kindness, perhaps, or with indifference, or with hostility, toward the people we meet, we too are setting the great spider web a-tremble.

The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt.

Our lives are linked together.

No one is an island."

(Frederick Buechner, b. 1926)

Laughter and grace ...

Getting to the end of this little blog journey through my Top 10 List for Parents of Adult Children ...

Point #2 is Laugh.

Simple, right?

Not so simple from my experience ...

One of the very first things to go when parents and adult kids start to tangle is our sense of humor.

Rather than laughing at the ridiculousness of our arguments, we clamp down.

We get defensive.

We get hurt, so we get serious.

Unfortunately, this has a multiplying effect on our angst.

Try this next time you find yourself in a brawl of sorts with your adult children, or with your parents:

Laugh.

At yourself.

Make a self-deprecating joke to lighten the mood.

Shake your head and grin at your OWN ridiculousness.

Agree with your adult child about your behavior and giggle at it.

And when you do this, you may just find the momentum shifting ...

For, as the great German theologian Karl Barth said:

"Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God."

Amen, Karl Barth, amen.

The perfect storm ...

I have been thinking lately about why it is often so hard for adult kids and their parents to be kind to each other.

Of course if we have not practiced kindness during the early years of family life, it is hard to all of a sudden become kind. It can be done, of course, but is much more difficult than starting the whole deal off with kindness as a central focus.

But for families who generally lean toward kindness, we often find ourselves shocked at the newfound kindness deficit which appears as our kids grow up and move out.

I wonder if this lack of kindness has to do with the fact that middle-aged parents and young adult kids are going through intense life stages simultaneously.

In my own life, I am noticing this ...

My adult kids are all in their 20's. They are all either in, or about to be in, graduate school programs. They are figuring lots of important things out - what they want to do with their lives, who they want to spend their lives with, where they want to live, what they want their lives to look like, etc. This stuff is not easy. It is one of the most stressful stages of human development.

My husband and I are in a totally different stage of life. We are happy with each other, happy with our work, settled in where and how we live. However, we are walking alongside our own aging parents, while aging ourselves. This is causing both of us to consider our own mortality; face the fact that there are not lots and lots of decades left for us to pursue our dreams, chase our goals, rediscover ourselves. We are confronting the brevity of life. This ain't for sissies either.

And, we are caring for our parents who are all in various stages of healthy aging. No matter how "healthy" aging is, though, we all know where and how it ends, right?

These simultaneously occurring stressful stages of life often "pile on" in family life.

The various parties, using much of their energy to navigate their own season of life, often don't consider what the other parties are facing - what unique stressors they are confronting - and this can create a perfect storm of short fuses and an empathy drought.

Hard stuff. Easy to be unkind.

But, when I snap at my mom. Or my son snaps at my husband. Or I feel hurt when one of my kids isn't kind in the moment, it might help for each one of us to look the other in the eye, consider the stage of life they are in, the battle the other is fighting, drop the fists and reach out our arms for a hug.

This perfect storm of family developmental stages is intense. Don't forget you are all in this together. 

Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.