This past week I’ve had converstaions with not one, not two, but three different people about Grown Up Children. About how we need a support group for parents in this stage of life. How our adult children need a support group as they recover from our poor parenting. About shifting our approach to our children and learning how to truly let them go to be adults.
This is a touchy topic for me. I struggle with feeling a lot of guilt, shame, and bewilderment as I try to navigate this stage of life. The bewilderment comes as I realize that all those promises that people gave you… If you just homeschool, if you have daily devotions, if you eat all your meals together as a family, if you just stay connected…If you do A, B, and C, then you will produce a child who enters adulthood gracefully. They will be wise. They will make the best decision every single time. They will have a strong direction for their life and they will pursue it in a straight line, from the moment they graduate high school. They will teach Sunday School and be one of those people that others count as a Great Role Model. All you have to do is A, B, and C… All of these promises are empty. But I think they are empty because they are working off the wrong assumptions.
I think, as young parents, we start off with unreasonable (wrong) expectations. Maybe, we remember how responsible and mature we were as young adults, and we presume that we are going to make carbon copies of ourselves. Or maybe, we had a rough start in life, and so we parent with the express purpose of making sure our kids don’t turn out like we did. Either way, we tend to forget that these children we are raising are their own person. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. They have their own free will. They have their own lives to chart out. We are called to train and equip our children. Teach them the difference between right and wrong. Teach them about God and all that his Word says about him. Teach them all the skills they need to succeed in our culture. But, what they do with all that information, that’s their choice. And it is not a reflection on us what they choose to do.
I think we get really hung up on our own self-consequence when it comes to our grown up kids. We tie their behavior to our own self-worth. My grown up kid is doing things I don’t agree with. It must mean I was a horrible parent. My grown up kid is struggling. I have failed. My friends and family don’t agree with the lifestyle my grown up kid has chosen, they must all think I did something wrong. Woe is me.
And this comes back to letting go of our grown up kids. Our grown up kids are now adults and the decisions they make are on them. Yes, we made parenting mistakes. Every single parent in the world has made and will make parenting mistakes. It is part of the curse of Adam. We are all sinners. We sin against our kids. But every person hits an age where they have to decide what they are going to do about it. They have to make the decision that yes, they have hit adulthood with some handicaps. They have wounds, poor training, perhaps trauma that they now have to work through so that they can get on with their lives. But, they are the only ones who can get on with their lives. Their parents can ask their forgiveness, go to therapy with them, make penance, but in the end, it’s still them who have to do the hard work of overcoming and moving on.
As parents, it’s hard to accept that. I feel shame and guilt for all the ways I messed up. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I can give you a pretty concise list of all the things I wish I had done differently. I’ve been trying to make a point to express this to my grown up kids. Own my mistakes. I did this and this and I’m really sorry. Please forgive me. Some of those mistakes will have life-long effects on my kids. But, unfortunately, I am no longer in a position to get them the healing they need to recover from those wounds. They have to pursue that on their own. All I can do is keep loving them, keep being there, and pray like crazy. And be humble enough to accept the fact that God’s grace covers these sins too.
I have two grown up kids right now. I think they are amazing. I am over-the-top proud of them. They’ve made their own choices and continue to do the hard work of just muddling through, trying to figure things out. Young adulthood is messy. There is no way I would want to go back and live that time of my life again. I am confident that God has his hand on their lives and I am proud to be their mom.
But, I’d like to add, their progression through adulthood has not looked anything like I thought it would. And that’s not good or bad. It just is. Their story is just beginning, and I’m learning how to step down from Parent-in-Charge to the new role as Chief Cheerleader, Back-up Support, and Prayer Warrior.