Searching For Answers In A New Stage of Life
We left Africa and landed in Northern Virginia to live and finish raising our kids. They grew up, left us empty nesters, and I thought life was going to be simple! But no! An exciting journey through unexplored lands had just begun...
I was prepared for the emotional ups and downs of missing my kids once they moved out of the house. The thing that surprised me was how unsure I felt during so many conversations those first few years. Nick has been on his own for 7 years and Kati, who recently got married, left our home four years ago. I still have moments where I second-guess myself, but it's getting better. Maybe you can relate if you're a parent to some of the thoughts always running through my mind...
"What should I say?
"Should I say something or just stay quiet?" "What's appropriate now that they don't live with us anymore?" "Should I tell them what I think they should do or wait until they ask?" "What if they don't ask?"
"I don't know what I'm doing..."
One of the benefits of being a student of the Bible the past 34 years has been having a stable reference for answers to difficult questions in my life. I love the practical help I have gotten for my marriage, for overcoming conflicts, learning how to love deeper and be a better wife, mom, and friend. The principles have been invaluable.
This time, though, I felt stumped.
I'm the firstborn and a pretty standard rules child. I married a firstborn as well. When the kids lived at home, the rules were clear. Our home was filled with fun and lots of love, but without question, Tom and I were the parents and in charge. As kids, Nick and Kati's job was to listen to us and follow the rules. Simple.
Now they are grown up.
Adults, but always our children.
The lines have blurred and I struggle to figure out what being their mom looks like now.
My battle doesn't come from a place of conflict with either Nick or Kati. We enjoy a fun friendship with both our kids. In spite of that, I have felt uncomfortable and unsettled too often and needed guiding principles that seemed elusive. Let me tell you what happened...
Two conversations sent me on a mission to figure this parent/adult child thing out.
One afternoon I got a phone call from Kati. Tom and I were together so I put her on speaker. Expecting a fun, excited description of a special weekend away, we were surprised by the call. Her day had started badly and she was angry and frustrated.
Good friends would have listened, empathized and let her vent, knowing that once she talked, she would be fine and end up having a great rest of her day. Unfortunately we jumped straight into parent fix-it mode. She never hung up on us, but quickly got off the phone.
We knew we had blown it and tried to call back to apologize. No answer. So I texted her. No response. I felt awful, over reacted emotionally and ended up crying myself to sleep that night. (Poor Tom...)
Fast forward to a couple days later...I was recounting my story to a friend whose children are several years older than mine. "I really need to figure out what to do in those kinds of situations." "Good luck with that!" she said.
Oh no, really?
The other conversation was with a different woman I respect. Laughing, she said something like "You need to learn to bite your tongue and after they have kids you need to bite it until it bleeds." I knew that just wasn't going to work for me. I needed practical help, some healthy principles. I worked hard over the years to build a great relationship with my kids and I didn't want it to crumble now.
Here's what I did...
I interviewed parents of adult children ranging in age from their 20s to 50s, asking their perspective and advice about building a thriving relationship. After a chance conversation with an "adult child," I realized I was only getting half the story if I just talked with parents. I expanded my interviews to include adult children from late teens to 50s. Getting answers to questions from the perspective of both sides has been amazing!
This is a fascinating journey. I'm learning so much and am excited to share it with you. I want to share insights I've gained, strategies that are helping me grow and convictions that have deepened in my heart. Whether you are a parent or an adult child, I hope you will join me in this exploration!