Saturday, May 30, 2015
Being The Parent Of Grown Kids 'Ain't' Easy
It's not for me to second-guess who says that their parents hate them, or whether someone's parents want to control him. There's no doubt that there are some parents who aren't very emotionally healthy. If there's one thing that I've discovered now that I have grown kids of my own, however, it's that so often the real problem can be that grown kids, who either don't have any kids yet or else whose children are still small, simply don't understand "where parents are coming from" or why. I see it from strangers online: Some young adult wants to, say, join the military or maybe go live in another country for a few years; and his parents don't want him to. The young adult will essentially "make up" what his parents' motives/reasoning are; when, as a parent, I'll think, "OMG! I wouldn't want my sons or daughter to join the military - or whatever the matter is - either; and it sure wouldn't be for the reasons some of the young adults online seem to think their own parents don't. :/
In examples like the ones I gave the young adult may think his parent is "a control freak" or "doesn't want him to be happy" or "doesn't want him to grow up and live independently" - or any number of other imagined motivations that may or may not have a basis in how the parent actually feels, or why.
It's often said that there's no handbook for raising children. It's not just raising children, though; because no matter how much kids grow, or how mature parents ever get, it's always a learning process that involves parents doing a least a little bit of muddling along the way.
It's not easy to describe "where parents are/may be coming from", because when we have no children we kind of "come from" one place/one mind. Once we have babies we discover that we have more "minds" than before. Maybe we're coming from the parent-mind that is ours. Maybe we're coming from the "still-a person-in-my-own-right mind". As children grow, and as their lives become "bigger" and more complicated, parents can discover that on any number of issues they have any number of "minds" beyond just those two I mentioned above.
It's not easy to reconcile the deep wish that one's children grow up healthy, happy, and free to live the life they dream of; with the wish that get to that life without making some future-destroying, or even life-ruining/life-ending choice. Neither is always easy to reconcile what is a bigger and more complicated love for one's child with wanting that son/daughter to be independent; while also being absolutely scared to death that something awful could happen to that young person, or maybe not-so-young person. The way parents love doesn't lessen with a child's age. It changes in nature but also grows into a more mature kind of love. It's a really nice surprise to see the way that love for a child grows and matures as the child and we, parents, grow too. BUT, just as inside most of us there's an "inner child" who becomes scared to death at the thought of some things; there can also be an "inner parent of that beautiful baby that their grown child once was". Sometimes the inner child or the inner parent of that beautiful baby just come out and interfere with some of the muddling that parents of kids of any age must do.
Having grown children is every bit, maybe more so, an amazing and life-changing experience and discovery that having little ones is. It's more complicated, though. It's just not a simple process to separate out love from fear, reasoning from emotion, wisdom from experience from idealism, or that fervant wish to see one's child live the life he chooses from the deep-down, sometimes selfish, wish that one's grown child not go so far away that seeing him often won't be possible.
Lots of times parents of grown kids and those grown kids all want the same thing, which is for that grown son or daughter to happily life the life he wants in good health. It's an unhealthy and neurotic parent who wants his son or daughter to remain dependent on him. Most parents are healthier than that.
Sometimes, too, parents do or say things for reasons they can't share with their son or daughter; because sometimes sharing those reasons wouldn't be good for the grown son or daughter to hear; and good parents would rather be thought less of by their child than to say something to their child that would be destructive to him.
The moral to all this, I suppose, is: "It's not always easy to be the parent of a grown son or daughter." What I'd hope the real message here will be, though, is that anyone who is not yet the parent of a grown son or daughter simply understand that he can never truly understand where the parent of grown kids is coming from until he becomes the parent of at least one grown child - preferably a few grown children -himself.
Posted by ME Whelan at 12:00 AM