I have been in the strange world of parenting adult children for about 12 years now. It’s a lot like living in an alternate universe where everything is upside down. In this universe, I am supposed to stand by and watch my child make decisions that are unwise and even dangerous with minimal interference from me! Let me tell you, after years of raising them and nurturing them, worrying about them and sacrificing for them, it’s not so easy to shut it all off. In fact, sometimes, it’s damn hard.
And yet we are commanded to teach the teachable.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2: 3)
My own mother would simply state, “I wish you would ________,” fill in the blank. She didn’t say it often. She didn’t say it loudly. But it cut like a knife — not because she meant it to, but because my own pride kept me from accepting it graciously. And to add insult to injury, Mom was usually right!
This year is the tenth anniversary of my mom’s death. Toward the end of her life, she didn’t have to speak loudly. She wasn’t even harsh. She used quiet, gentle tones and spoke with charitable kindness. Maybe sometimes I didn’t want to hear her words, but I shut up and listened because I respected her. She deserved that. I also knew that, more often than not, she was absolutely correct in whatever it was she was telling me. I knew she had the life experiences that I lacked.
So why aren’t my children and other youth beating a path to my door for wisdom? Because when the young body still feels good and looks good, when that 40th birthday is decades away, it’s hard to see a more mature perspective. The problems of the young are so immediate, as if nothing else could ever be worse than what is happening at this second. Of course, at 50-plus, I know that “something worse” exists. At 81, Mom knew so too. She had lived through much of it.
Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? Or at least irony!
It finally occurred to me that although I am required to teach my children, it’s best to lead the adult children by example, and speak up carefully and charitably only when I feel prayerfully compelled to. When I get that urge to get in there and try to micromanage the lives of my adult children (as if I could!! ha ha ha), I remember my own mother and how she let me venture forth into adulthood while maintaining her own grace with courage and a heap of dignity.
Which is not to say that Mom didn’t have an opinion about things. She had plenty to say!! And as I matured into womanhood, it occurred to me that I couldn’t discount her opinion just because she was my mother. Why should her opinion matter less simply because she gave birth to me? Somewhere in my 20s it became apparent that part of being a mature adult included giving more weight to my mother’s opinion simply because she was my mother!
So while I can no longer shield my adult children, or forbid or prevent them from doing whatever it is they want to do, I’m still allowed to have an opinion about these things. If they ask for it, I’ll give it to them. If they’re in my home, I might give it to them even if they don’t ask for it, free of charge! Because that’s what adults do, especially adults in close relationships.
Being the parent of an adult child is a balancing act. You’re still a parent, not a friend — but you have no authority. You want to be loved and respected, but sometimes for the good of the adult child you might have to risk losing that by standing up for truth and values.
As children move into the adult years, the role of the parents changes. We become sounding boards, counselors, a touchstone to the past, and encouragers. But we should never ever put aside our values, or be afraid to offer cautions or even admonitions. Being the parent doesn’t mean becoming a silent bystander, and I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that sometimes we MUST speak out.
Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
– by participating directly and voluntarily in them
– by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them (CCC 1868)
The bottom line is that the job of parenting never ends; it just keeps evolving and changing. Parents can have opinions about what their children do and sometimes they are even compelled to share those opinions. But we do a disservice to our kids when we condone bad behavior and poor choices, or worse — when we don’t speak up at all.
Copyright 2019 Elena LaVictoire