Parenting Adult Children (Part 2)
See Part 1 of this story here.
Gone were the days when I could direct his actions. Gone were the days when I could logic/convince/velvetly force him into anything. Gone even were the days where my opinion mattered at all. Though individuation for a growing person begins much younger, I was present to the full brunt of it when he was now out of house and completely out of influence.
Thankfully, I have a dear friend and prayer partner who passed through this phase many years earlier with her two sons and yet was still “writing the book” on parenting of adult children. She called this phase unique in that the kid-come-adult is trying to be an adult – but doesn’t know how – and the parent is trying to not micro-manage their life – but doesn’t know how. It’s a very weird and challenging stage for both young adult and parent alike.
The first bit of wisdom she passed on was to cease all attempts to advise: regardless, whatsoever, notwithstanding anything! Then, the challenge was to simply acknowledge whatever could be acknowledged about the paths, choices, or directions he was taking…”challenge” because, as the parent, we think we know better. The idea was to become an acknowledging and validating machine, and close the mouth of “the wise one”.
What that also meant was being able to hear the need for financial support and stand strong in allowing the necessary path of growth from kid-wanting-to-be-adult to, possibly, actual adulthood. That is a tough one.
There’s a story I once heard about a man who saw a butterfly just beginning its exit from a cocoon. He thought he would aid in the process by using his fingernail to help nick away parts of the cocoon shell so that the butterfly could get out easier. What happened, however, once the shell was eventually removed, was that the “butterfly” became a would-be butterfly because, as the bloated insect lie there with wings full of fluid, there was no way it would ever be able to fly. The very act of having to force itself out of the cocoon was a critical process in squeezing out the fluid so that the wings would be light, airy, and flight-worthy.
Learning to let my son learn what he needs to learn – without meddling one way or the other – is, for me, a big Back Forty growth endeavor.
Yet another more recent bit of evolved advice from my sage veteran parent partner was this: when he tells me something he did that I feel like praising, instead of being the one approving and acknowledging of that action, I am to put it back to him: “How did that make you feel?” This act of turning him toward the source of all approval as being within him vs. my “guidance” slipping in through some side door of “approval” is another way of pulling back so my adult child can become adult.
I’m in no way through this process, and we all know that our kids are our kids for life. Yet going through this requisite phase of Back Forty parenting upgrade is a unique period in which I’m learning just a thing or two about a thing or two.