To be extremely transparent with you, I am still working through this stage. I am in the midst of finding a healthy balance of being supportive without being over-supportive, if you know what I mean. I am trying to find the balance of expectations in this new and strange world of mothering adults. Once again, I find myself way out of my comfort zone.
I think we almost need to break this stage down into two different sections–
Adult Kids living in the home
Adult Kids living outside the home
Personally, I have only experienced the first one. As all four of my kids are still living at home and three of them are 18 or older, I do feel somewhat qualified to write about it here. Please notice the word “somewhat.” When you are in the midst of a stage it is hard to tell what exactly you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. But I am fairly confident about a couple of things. First, it is still our home. No matter if they are 15, 25, or 40, if they are living in our home, they still have a responsibility to abide by our rules. Now, those rules, we have found, do need to change and relax a bit. i.e. While we ask the kids to be discerning in their choices within our home (we don’t want to hear ungodly music blaring from a speaker or see worldly junk on the TV in this home), we do not put restrictions on what they do outside our home (although we do feel free to share our disappointment in any bad choices!).
And, second, we do ask them to help a bit around the house without pay for their room and board. Trust me, they are getting the deal of their lives– although, as is typical of life — they really don’t understand this. I know parents who charge room and board and parents who don’t.
If they do not like our rules, we have made it clear that they are free to leave with our blessing. We love them but our responsibility for this home before God remains. So far, they have all decided the perks are worth it! Lots of parents do this stage differently for a lot of different reasons. What do you do? And why?
As we navigate through this time in our lives, we still keep talking and loving and messing up and forgiving. Life is changing substantially for us as parents and for me, particularly, as a mother. I try to lean into the curves, but I don’t really always do such a good job (as my kids will attest to). I wasn’t mentally prepared for this and I find myself feeling lost and out of my element much of the time. There. That’s a bit of honesty for you.
As for parenting our young adults who are married or have moved away, I have a few things to say because of my own experience as a child. And I have been giving some thought to this recently, as my daughter recently got engaged. I want to pattern my parenting in this stage after my own parents. I feel so incredibly blessed and I want to share with you what I believe they did SO right in this area…and continue to do so right. I want to be just like them for my kids.
1. They take their role to support my brother and I very seriously. While they have their own lives and friends, they have made our family (and my brother’s) a priority.
2. They use their words to encourage and love, rather than to criticize.
3. They backed away from their role as “fixer” and got comfortable in their role as “mentor”.
4. When my parents confront us about anything, we take them very seriously. We do this because this happens so infrequently that we know they must feel very strongly if they have chosen to speak to us about it.
5. We have become friends in a two-way sense, so that I can also be an encouragement and support to them sometimes.
6. They bring fun and joy and help to our lives. Vacations and trips and outings are much more fun when Grandpa and Grandma are along.
7. Because my parents love the Lord and have made God a priority in their lives, we can always count on them for biblical counsel.
8. They are not intrusive. They did not criticize us about raising children, handling our finances, or the choices we made that troubled them. And I know that there were times they would have liked to. I am not sure how they were able to sit by and watch, but I am pretty sure that what they weren’t saying to us, they were saying to God. I know we were (and continue to be) prayed for.
And here’s the thing (before you get the wrong idea)–my parents are NOT perfect. They would be the first to tell you that. It’s not about perfection. It’s about humility and love and grace. They have messed up and have their personality flaws just like everybody else.
And, while I picked my parents to write about here, we have also been very blessed by my in-laws (my husband’s parents) as well, who have offered so much love and support through the years and have been there whenever we needed them. We have often said that we don’t deserve so much support when some couples don’t have any.
We are so deeply grateful for all four of our parents. As we enter this new stage of parenting my husband and I pray that we, too, will be supportive and loving and, instead of filling hearts with dread and irritation when we are around, we provide joy and comfort and fun!
I think Adrian Rogers says it best. Here is his formula for being the best in-law you can be —Hands-Off, Prayers-On, Mouths-Closed, Hearts-Open