Lessons from Parenting Adult Children: Things I Am Glad I Don’t Have to Say

Someone forgot to let me know that parenting didn’t end the day they moved out. In fact I think that’s when you are just getting started. I remember calling my mom and crying on the phone when I had four small children. Mom, I can’t do this. I can’t have two in diapers and get all this work done. It’s just not possible. She would assure me that it would all go by fast and that there were harder things coming. I was like most children and didn’t listen. I didn’t hear her when she said there were harder things coming.

I had bought the lie! Well I listened to the rumors and tales of parenting and believed it. We would have the terrible two’s, those dreaded teenager years, puberty, dating, etc. and then we would be done with the hard part. Well that wasn’t quite accurate. Where were the mature mother’s to chime in with you have no idea what you are in for once they leave home. You aren’t done. You are just getting started. Sure they aren’t a part of your every day lives and you no longer have say in their life decisions, but parenting will take an unexpected turn and that turn will have you begging for the days of ear aches, sleepless nights, diapers, and boo boo’s.

Watching my grown children leave home has been a roller coaster of emotion and change. As they leave our lives our changed. The onset of children leaving also means you are aging and the changes that come with that kind of wake you up to the fact that you just spent a big part of your life raising children so now what? Watching them go out in the world and make mistakes is at first terrifying. You want to revert back to the good old days when you could control their lives, but their silent or not so silent rebellion will remind you those days are over. You must watch from afar as they navigate the tumultuous days of your 20’s. Figuring out who in the heck you are apart from your parents, coming up with a general direction for your life, and at the same time making mistakes and then trying to figure it all out again.

Lately I have been thankful those days are long gone for me because here are some things I am glad I don’t have to say:

* Ok dad here is what happened to the car you co-signed for me yesterday.
* Sorry for the crappy phone call mom. I had a bad hangover and……
* That college isn’t for me. I am going to go back to the one I started out at. The first two just don’t work with what I want to do. What do you want to do? I am not sure.
* I’ll be fine mom. I don’t know him very well, but we will be fine driving across the country together. You worry too much.
* I’ll find a man when I get to Spain.
* How do I get a checking account going?
* I’ll have a house within the first year of moving there. How much is rent down there? I haven’t checked it out yet.
* We can move there without having a permanent place to live.
* I regret that SnapChat.
* We will just raise the money for our trip through our Go Fund Me page.
* That pump will hold out on our two week trip to California.
* I need to get my first resume going.
* No one taught us in school how to deal with these bills.

Youth is wonderful. It truly is. It’s naivety is a gift. If we truly had known what was in store as we started our lives we would have just went back home and stayed there. Some days I worry as I watch my children start new ventures or move away without being as prepared as I think they should be, but perhaps they have it right. They find out what they need to know and just do it. They don’t make things as complicated as us “mature” people do. They don’t fret over every detail, worry about the outcomes of their decisions too much, and don’t stop living because of fear. They gather information and go for it. In some ways I envy them. Perhaps the years and weight of family and career prevent us from living life like that. Perhaps we make it more difficult than it needs to be.

In December I watched my oldest daughter and her husband pack their four door Ford car and move to Florida. I was a bag of emotion focused on all the what if’s and stricken with the grief of not being able to see her very often. I was knee deep in a mortgage I didn’t want, a mid-life career change I wanted less, and the excruciating pain of life changes that were out of my control. I couldn’t comprehend how someone could sell everything they owned, pack their car and move to a new state without a permanent place to live, but her move woke me up. It showed me how simple life can and needs to be. All these things we have accumulated have made life difficult, our so called maturity blinds us from seeing the opportunities there are in life, and our love for our children makes us worry more than we trust in the path they are carving out for their lives.

I am glad I don’t have to figure it all out again. I am thankful for the reminder of youth and their freedom and naivety. Perhaps the life truly lived is lived taking chances and not by counting the cost. Perhaps it’s making a simple plan and then just trying it. Perhaps our maturity is the true naivety because it is based off of fear of trying. Perhaps that’s why people get old because they stop taking chances.

To ensure we truly live we need to sell what we have, pack our car, and move to somewhere without much of a plan and see what happens. My daughter and her husband nine months later? She has the job she always wanted, they have a great condo, her husbands new business is providing more income than they hoped for, they have a great set of friends, and do all this five minutes from the beach. We are still here with the mortgage we don’t want, the careers we are bored with, but now with a plan to change it all. A simple plan to sell what we have, move, and start over. I don’t know what will happen and that’s okay. It’s the adventure we need to ensure we don’t grow old, but keep living.

Marcy Pedersen

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