Friday, July 13, 2012

Letting go

Welcome to the world, Emily.
This post is more in the vein of "advice you never asked for."

From the moment we meet our babies, their floppy, squawking heads on our chests, we begin to say goodbye. The rest of parenthood is letting go.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, the challenges get significantly scarier as the children get older. Instead of kissing scuffed knees, we watch our kids navigate the Internet or get their drivers' licenses.

Our goal, of course, is for our children to grow up to be healthy, reasonably happy, independent adults. But, oh, sweet Jesus, there are pitfalls along the way! Really, really scary, deep, deadly, bottomless pitfalls.

There are three things Steve and I have found we can do:

  • Pray.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Take care of ourselves.
That's it, folks. That's all I've got.


I believe in the power of prayer, especially when two or more people pray together. I believe that specific prayers are especially powerful.


I think we all benefit when there are clear parameters about what is expected and what is permitted, along with clear consequences. This gets a trickier with adult children, but I use the roommate test to evaluate whether I'm treating them as children or as adults: would I ask the same of a roommate who was not related to me?

For example, I would certainly expect a roommate to clean up after cooking or to clean other shared areas. On the other hand, I would not expect a roommate to tell me when she'll be getting home (unless we had plans to do something together). This is a hard adjustment for a parent to make. [Understatement.]

As for consequences, again, you have to use the roommate test. You can't "ground" a roommate, so we don't try to ground our adult children. But I would certainly ask a roommate to take on an additional chore (clean the bathroom?) if I had to clean up after his kitchen mess.

[Steve actually went to the length of calculating how many hours per week we each had committed (to work, school, volunteer, lessons, and travel) and allocated chore hours accordingly. But that's probably a little too OCD for most.]

When needed, it is appropriate to put these in writing, in the form of a family contract.

Taking Care of Ourselves

New mothers receive constant advice to take it easy on themselves, especially when the baby isn't sleeping well. In my experience, that is a piece of advice that mothers of young adults should take to heart. And it is as important now as it ever was for Steve and I to put effort into our relationship.

All I need to do now is take my own advice. I'll, uh, let you know how that goes. In the meantime, do any other mothers of adult children out there have advice for me? Do share!

1 comment:

  1. Well said.

    How often do you see couples splitting after the last child leaves the nest? (or even sooner.) Sadly, each has depleted themselves in the sometimes gruelling parenting through to young adults, with nothing left to give to each other. Many parenting books address the middle point, but the other two points are just as important.



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