This New Years finds me the parent of two adults, men ages 24 and 21. Adults who have just completed semesters in foreign countries and have traveled in a handful of other countries while away. These adults need a different kind of mother.
I am drawn to straightening out their collars and fussing over them because, well, because I am. But I resolve to resist. I will do absolutely nothing that communicates to them that who they are or what they look like is a reflection of me. If they ask, I will tell them that their hair and beard look great.
I often think that my grown sons are asking for my opinion when they are just telling me something. When my oldest son told me about wanting to take the trans-Siberian railway to Moscow in December, he didn’t want my opinion. He was sharing with me his thoughts. HIS thoughts. I am proud that at the time managed to simply say, “Wow. What a trip.” I resolve to resist giving an opinion unless asked, and even then I will keep it short.
These men are learning how to make big decisions about their lives. They are completely capable of listing the pros and cons and of considering their options. They do, however, want to know what else they might consider in their decisions, so they ask how I made some decisions in my life. This is not an invitation to tell my story. It is a chance to demonstrate how decisions have led to consequences, some good, some not so good, some delightfully surprising. I will remember that these conversations are not all about me, they are about examples.
My husband and I have worked diligently to have positive, respectful and close relationships with our teenage sons. I even wrote a book about it called Slow Parenting Teens. When our sons had troubles while abroad, they called us, and together we looked for solutions and new ideas. This does not have to change just because they are adults. They will call for different and more complicated reasons. I resolve to continue to be available for conversations and support whenever they look for it. At the same time, I accept that infrequent calls and one-word text messages are proof that their lives are going along well, not that they don’t care about their parents.
I will continue to be curious about who they are and what is important to them. When they recommend a book, I will read it and look forward to discussing it. When they are in town, I will still prepare a special meal for them and take them out to lunch just to talk. However, I will not expect them to come home whenever they have time on their hands. Their lives extend way beyond our house, but they are always welcome to visit or stay for a while, if they want.
When it hit me that my teenagers are not teenagers anymore, I lost my breath for an instant. I am finished with being the parent of teenagers! Oh my! Then I realized that I am the parent of adults, and I want to continue to have positive, respectful and fun relationships with each of them. So this New Years, I resolve to learn how to move into this new phase of our lives and to start by relinquishing the lead and following their leads instead.
So far, I am still getting plenty of hugs, so this might turn out just fine.