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 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.

And in a harsh world ...

"I become more and more certain, as the years go by, that wherever friendship is destroyed, 

or homes are broken,

or precious ties are severed,

there is a failure of imagination.

Someone is too intent on justifying himself, or herself, never venturing out to imagine the way things seem to the other person.

Imagination is shut off and sympathy dies.

If we know what it is that makes other people speak or act as they do, 

if we knew it vividly by carefully imagining all that may lie behind it, we might not quarrel.

We might understand.

Often we could heal the wounds.

But even where that is not possible - even where fuller understanding only leaves us rather sad and helpless, it would still give us the power to be kind - to act yes, but still to be kind - to go on being kind.

And in a harsh world, God knows that even that is something - to go on being kind.

(A. Powell Davies, 1902 - 1957)

If you want to be holy ...

Back to the Top 10 List for Parents of Adult kids ...

#3 on my list was Be Kind.

There is so much that could be written about kindness.

And it is a mystery to me why it is often so hard to be kind to those who are closest to us.

Here is a little sentence I carry around in my head from Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian pastor who writes like a dream.

He wrote:

"If you want to be holy, be kind."

The end.

Life, die ...

The Maker of man was made man, that the Ruler of the stars might suck at the breast;

that the Bread might be hungered;

the Fountain, thirst;

the Light, sleep;

the Way, be wearied by the journey;

the Truth, be accused by false witnesses;

the Judge of the living and the dead, be judged by a mortal judge;

the Chastener, be chastised with whips;

the Vine, be crowned with thorns;

the Foundation, be hung upon the tree;

Strength, be made weak;

Health, be wounded;

Life, die.

To suffer these and suchlike things, undeserved things, that He might free the undeserving,

for neither did He deserve any evil, who for our sakes endured so many evils,

nor were we deserving of anything good, 

we who through Him received such good.

(St. Augustine, The Confessions)