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.