The most crucial question you can ask when raising children.

Is this my responsibility to teach, discipline, or change?

A mother is in constant worry. Her grown sons are in and out of relationships, they live at home and then move out, and she still pays some of their bills. She is integrally involved in their lives and because of that she is a worried mess, unhappy, and unable to live her life.

A month after our daughter was married her mother-in-law called me and said I had to help pay their rent. This came after a six month engagement filled with drama, her soon to be husband losing three jobs, and having no place to live two months before the wedding. We told them we felt it was a bad time to get married and they should wait until he had a job. They married anyway and ensured us it would be okay because they loved each other. It came to no surprise that they couldn’t pay their rent.

Our younger daughter shares earth shattering gossip about a cousin. The kind of thing that is serious. In her story she shares that this makes her feel better because she isn’t as bad. A clear red flag that she herself has gossip that someone is sharing about her. We discuss whether this information needs shared with my sibling.

In August of 2013 my eighteen year old son left for bootcamp. We left him off at a hotel where other recruits where asked to report. They would later be shuttled to Chicago to start their training. When the time came to leave him it was excruciating. He hugged me, walked down the hallway to the elevator, and in that instant our relationship changed.

My son taught me some hard lessons that I needed to learn as a new mother handling the emptying nest. He cut me off from his daily life (a lot out of necessity), he completely took responsibility for his finances, and he was off. Being in the military facilitated most of this, but his identity as a man did too.

He told me that men didn’t let mom’s pay for stuff. So he was determined at the age of eighteen to ensure we didn’t and we haven’t almost five years later. In a very respectful way he also made it clear that I no longer had a say in anything in his life. He asks me for advice and I cherish those moments, he calls every week to check in, but he is a man and as a man I am not privy to everything, but I don’t need to be.

Is this my responsibility to teach, discipline, & change?

We have to decide when the cut off is. My son cutoff from us and went into the Navy. As an adult on his own we didn’t support him financially and didn’t blur the lines of responsibility. This means we have an adult relationship based off of mutual love and respect. There is no opportunity for me to know information that I shouldn’t about his life and for me to hold anything over his head like “we are paying your insurance”.

Our daughters lingered at home because they went to college. Our oldest lived here until she was 23 while she attended school. We made house rules for adults living in our home. That is your apartment bedroom now you keep it clean, please call if you won’t be coming home, not for approval, but out of respect. You do your own laundry, I will respect your space, and we outlined who would pay what.

If you break the rules you are out. If you decide this is a time in your life when you want to party and do drugs then you are out. I am too tired and old to put up with it. If you decide to quit school then we expect you to work full time and we will then establish the age you need to be out. Adult children can’t live here forever.

The boundaries are set. So when my 20ish adult daughter comes home at questionable hours, smelling like smoke, but keeping all the rules I do what? Nothing. When she says she is low on money and not sure how she will afford tires I do what? Nothing. She needs to learn to manage her money better. It’s not my responsibility and therefore not my problem to worry about. Right mom?

We didn’t help pay our daughter’s rent after she got married because she was to become one with her husband. It was no longer my responsibility. She assured us her love for him would help them get through. She needed to learn that. We offered to bring them food, have them over for dinner, and take them to a homeless shelter. We didn’t pay the rent or give them any money. You know what? It freed me to live my life, and they learned important and hard lessons like we told them they would. They are doing fine today.

Are we involved too much in the details of our kids lives? Even when they are home we don’t need to be. There entire lives are not our responsibility. They need to learn and that will require them making bad choices, messing up their lives royally, and figuring it out. Just like us! They don’t need rescued. They need to learn through their actions.

If you are too involved in your children’s lives you will be unable to live yours. You will live in a fear tunnel that will spin out of control. You may glean some sort of joy from playing the mom martyr and trying to fix everything, but the rest of your life will be a shambles. There will be no time to nurture and love your husband, enjoy the time given to you when the kids leave, and to develop yourself as the amazing woman God wants you to be.

Are you responsible? Really?
Is it your place to teach? Most often it’s not when they are older, and only if they ask.
Can you change the situation? Is it for God to change, if it is then you may be over stepping your boundaries. Stop. Spend time analyzing your life because chances are if you are too wrapped up in your kids lives you are neglecting areas of your life that are hurting.

Whew! Let’s figure this out. God has amazing things in store for us if we will structure our lives in the way He set forth, concern ourselves only with what is ours to be concerned with, and focus on developing ourselves as some amazing men and women for God!

Let’s do this.

Marcy Pedersen

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