A Special Joy: Parenting Adult Children
If I've been a bit incommunicado lately it's because I've been busy reaping delicious fruits of parenting for peace: enjoying some of the delights of parenting adult children! Between visiting New York to catch my son in a fabulous show at the 92nd St. Y and spending time with my daughter as she is about to begin her last college semester before embarking on The World, it's been a couple weeks of juicy mothering life and no blogging life.
It's been a time to deeply savor the lived reality of what I wrote about somewhat wistfully in the conclusion of my book Parenting for Peace -- that parenting adult children brings a special joy when you know you have raised a creative innovator, a peacemaker poised to make a difference in a challenged world:
Parenting for peace has its own paradoxical wave-particle nature: it is something lived for the richness it brings in each moment -- the human connection, the joy, the growth -- and also a profoundly important investment in the wellbeing of our global family. It is the ultimate Now and Later proposition.
Farewell and Fair Winds
And now it is later. Fourteen came and went… sixteen… eighteen. Joy flowed, along with some tears. The milestones of driving and graduation passed. Your baby bird grew wings and flew away. Now the world is his nest, and his canvas. Where did the years go, you wonder. Those molasses days of her infancy and toddlerhood, days that stretched on and on and felt like they’d never end, when did they become the steady march of childhood and then overnight the unstoppable blur of her teens? What in the beginning felt like an infinite reach of time stretching out before you -- your child’s childhood -- today feels like a handful of quicksilver that shimmered for a moment and then was gone.
Unless you’re reading this after your child is grown, you won’t believe me. You’ll think I’m overly sentimental, or a terrible exaggerator, like those annoying people who, when they see you with your baby or toddler, warn you It goes so fast. Really? Goes so fast? Do you know how long I waited while he sat on the potty chair this morning and did nothing?? And then he went in his pants five minutes later! Do you know how long I waited for her to unlock her door after storming in there because I insisted she finish her sophomore project before she could drive to the mall? Part of the miracle and the mystery is this wave/particle aspect of life: both are true, depending on where you stand. The parenting journey is at once interminably long and achingly brief.
I should qualify that: the residential portion of the parenting journey can feel like a marathon in the moment and a sprint in retrospect. The silver lining of the so-called empty nest is that you never stop being a parent and your child never stops needing you. Your grown children indeed need you to be solidly there for them in new ways, so the seeds you’ve sown and tended all these many years can unfurl into vibrant maturity. Life is now their teacher, but you are still needed as an unwavering source of love, counsel, friendship, and enthusiastic support as they experiment with myriad dimensions of being in the world.
This is when you as a parent for peace are graced to witness your child’s emergence as a fully flourishing global citizen with emotional, intellectual and social intelligence and a reverence for both humanity and nature -- a peacemaker, poised to make a positive difference in a challenged world.
Awe is exceeded only by gratitude in the soul of a parent who knows that this is because he or she answered Life’s invitation to learn, stretch and grow as their child’s parent. Because you answered that call with a resounding yes, there are no regrets and no what-ifs.
And there is no peace like that peace.
Post-performance at the 92nd St. Y, after Ian had already
taken off his tux (still had 4 performances to go in it!). On the
left is my step-father John Lindstrom, who himself sang lead
roles in many Gilbert & Sullivan productions, and therefore
particularly enjoyed the evening.
I'm still savoring. Catch you back here soon!
I'm the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers, and also the adoption expert on Mothering's expert panel. I write and speak around the world on prenatal, child and parent development, and I have a private practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans, earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. On the wings of my new book I'm delighted to be speaking at many wonderful conferences all over the world in the coming months, and I'm happy to be sharing dispatches and inside glimpses with you here on Mothering.com! As a special gift to Mothering readers I'm offering "A Unique 7-Step Parenting Tool."