November 21, 2016

Navigating those waters between adult and child: Week 11

This week, I learned how very difficult it is to redefine that new relationship between yourself and your child who is now an adult.

mom fixing thingsIt became patently clear one night when my child who lives pretty close to home (but still on campus) came home for a mental health break. The first day, I pretty much parented. I did laundry and made food. It was task oriented and fulfilling. Then the wheels came off. The following day was still stressful. Our child contacted us and said that she needed a day away from campus. She came home and tried to tell me about all the stress she is under as she tries to figure out what is the best move forward.

Now, recognizing that my (s)mothering hadn't magically fixed everything the day before, I went into hyper-adult mode, but still didn't leave the mother side behind. I figured that some brutal honesty, adult stories would be useful. They didn't particularly pertain to my daughter's dilemma and stress, but in my grasp to be helpful, I thought that some stories from my lifetime of experience would help her find some perspective. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was the last thing in the world she wanted to hear and she made sure I knew that. With silence.

I screwed up because sometimes there just isn't a magical mom answer. There isn't a way to fix things the way we kiss a boo boo or snuggle under a blanket. Life is hard and it won't get easier for our young birdies who are flying the nest.

And that's how it goes.  We are going to redefine our roles as each milestone happens. The fact is that my children are going to face things that I never faced, partially because they are different people, and partially because this is a different time. My advice and experience will only go so far, and what I've realized is that now, when they come to me for advice, I'm not nearly as qualified to give it as I was 10 years ago. Or even five.

Learning what our roles are as parents when are children are adults is no easier than trying to figure out how to transition from adult to parent. It's a life milestone that is only mastered with experience. I recently told a 13 year old girl I know to be kind to her parents, they've never had a teenage daughter before and everything is just as new to them as it is to her.

Now I need an adult to tell me the same thing. I never had an adult child before and I'm figuring it out as I go along. You will, too.
             

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