My son is a young adult. A while back, we had a casual pizza dinner party at the cottage one night. The next morning the leftovers were brought out for pre-brunch snacking. Spying the pizza, he reached for a slice as he said that something in the pizza last night gave him heartburn. Lifting the slice to his mouth, he asked if we had any antacids.
I squawked at him, “Don’t eat that! Didn’t you just say it gave you heartburn?!”
He put the slice down slowly as he said, “Aaannd I am five again.”
Ay, carumba, mama! Time to stop the mothering, already! He’d been living on his own for a few years by then and in one brief weekend together, I slid back into ‘The Role’. Ouch, indeed. So easy to slip in; soo-o-o hard to stop. It’s true! After twenty-something years of mothering, imparting knowledge, nurturing, guiding, it can be tough to shift gears.
As an expectant mother, you read a lot and prepare yourself as best you can for life as a mom. Then as time passes, you grow and evolve together. You stumble and bumble your way through childhood and adolescence, learning as you go. Then, then, young adulthood hits and it’s a real paradigm shift. This is new. A different style of parenting is required, or more accurately – non-parenting.
It’s hard, too, because now their tears and pain cannot be soothed away with hugs and freezies. (Looking back, I wonder if all those ‘make it better’ kisses weren’t more for me than him. 😉 )
Brace yourself. This is a difficult time for most of us. There’s a lot of reprograming to be done. You need to know and accept that they are capable, responsible adults. You have done what you could to raise them well and to be independent. They may wobble a bit, but they are fully able to stand on their own two feet. Your job? Let them do it. You are not abandoning them. You are simply letting them do what they are meant to do.
Remember that this is new for them, too. Reassure them that you have not lost interest in them or their lives and that you will always be there for them, but you have to step back.
Sure, things will be different. You need to shift your energy. As this changed relationship develops with your adult child, why not focus on being an even better listener? Master the art of shutting up. Offer opinions and advice only when asked for. Always lend a sympathetic ear.
Be gracious. Respect that they have their own lives and friends. People to see, places to go. No guilt trips. Appreciate what they are doing and the contributions they are making to the world. It can be pretty cool.
This is a good thing. Yes, you’ve been the centre of their universe for a long time, but it was always borrowed time. You knew from day one that they were going to grow up. It’s time.
What about you? Have you successfully navigated the route to this new paradigm? Or see it coming? We’d love to hear your stories. Please share in the comments below.