“Mom,” she said with a hint of impatience. “You’re doing it again.”
I started to explain…to excuse my wordiness and interruptions and parenting voice. But then I took a deep breath, sat further back in my chair and picked up my coffee instead.
“I’m sorry,” I huffed with exasperation. I wasn’t put out with my daughter. I was put out with me.
I was mom-ing again.
My children are in their mid and late twenties now, and I love being their friend at this stage in life. They’ve both developed into wonderful, smart, capable and interesting people. They’re not necessarily doing everything in life the way I would, but they’re not supposed to. They get to make their own choices, develop their own relationships, claim their own successes and deal with their own mistakes. Truthfully, the entire time their dad and I were raising them, we stuck with the mantra, “We’re not raising children. We’re raising adults!” And now they are.
The Main Goal
Besides simply being in sweet and vibrant relationship with my adult children, I want the opportunity to be invited to speak into their lives. Let me say that again. I want Daniel and Abigail to occasionally invite me to speak into their lives. That won’t happen if I am already in the habit of forcing my opinions, values or ideas onto them. And if they assume that I will harshly judge them or in any way punish them for not lining up with my standards or ways, then they will pull away from me and only offer me portions of their life rather than sharing freely and openly.
My friend and mentor Victoria Robinson says I can best accomplish this kind of relationship if I will remember to simply “Show up and SMILE!”
Mostly, Just Show Up
Victoria reminds me that the ministry of my presence goes a long way with my adult kids. In this final stage of being a parent, ninety percent of my “job” is simply to be there. Show up. Listen and engage. Watch and appreciate.
I don’t need to manipulate things or even try to motivate my children in certain directions. In fact, Victoria said, “Instead of trying harder, trust God more.”Instead of trying harder, trust God more. Click To Tweet
I’ve done my parenting, and my children know who my husband and I are and how we see things. They could probably easily answer the questions, “What would mom do?” or “What would dad do?” on any given topic. They know. We don’t have to keep preaching to them or reminding them of the things we’ve taught them.
The key here is to behave in such a way towards my children that they actually want me there. I need to be invite-able, for lack of a real word. I want to be included in the wedding plans, the babies’ first days, holidays and maybe even a family vacation or two. But I want for them to want that, too.
Step number one, just show up.
SMILE is an acronym that prepares us to show up well. It’s really the work we do in the quiet place, with the Lord and in good self-care so that we can show up on good terms.
- S – Spiritual – I need to be invested deeply in my relationship with the Lord so that I do not cling to my children (or anyone else) in hopes of gaining from them more than they can reasonably give. Also, I need to continue to pray for my children and my relationship with them. The bottom line is that while I can pray for my children and encourage them in their spiritual walk if granted the opportunity, at this point my relationship with the Lord is my priority and their relationship with the Lord is their responsibility.
- M – Maturity – Parenting calls for a lot of maturity as it is. But being the parents of adult children requires maturity in new places and heftier doses. Primarily I’ve got to be mature enough to be quiet and listen more. Immaturity demands to be heard and often insists on having the last word. But maturity is quick to hear and slow to speak and very slow to take offense at what it hears. (James 1:19)
- I – Intimacy – My children may allow me to have a measure of intimacy with them even into adulthood, but I have to understand that things are changing. They are now more intimately acquainted with other people than they are with me. If I will focus on cultivating intimacy with the Lord, then I can trust Him to work in their life instead of meddling myself.
- L – Long term – In the adult years, God is teaching my children much bigger lessons and He may take them on long journeys for those lessons. I must be patient as He works in their lives, and trust Him to finish what He started. (Philippians 1:6) I need to resist arguing them into things or trying to speed the processes along by doing for them what they need to do themselves.
- E – Encourager – I don’t just need to encourage my children–or infuse them with courage–to do the things I want them to do. They will respond better and keep the door open wider if I will encourage them in the things that are important to them, the choices they’ve made (as long as they are not dangerous or unhealthy) and the paths they’ve chosen. I realize there are some decisions, relationships and pursuits we can’t bless in good conscience, but that’s why it’s all the more important to give our blessing where we can.
When They Do Ask
Finally, if I do manage to “show up and smile” and my child actually does turn to me for counsel, I need to tread lightly here, too. Victoria put it like this: It’s like responding gently and softly to a butterfly’s approach so that it will land on your hand. In other words, I need to offer gentle responses to big moments. I’m really struggling with putting this concept into practice. But I’m working on it.
In fact, Victoria suggests that I answer a question with a question whenever possible. Help them think through their concern or question without shoving my answer or solution on them. Instead, infuse them with courage and guide them through the thought process, all the while assuring them that I know they will ultimately make a wise decision.
Don’t Get in the Middle
Ultimately, as I prayerfully and thoughtfully navigate these new waters, I have to determine that I will not become their problem. I don’t want our relationship to be an issue for them. I want our friendship to enjoy a natural ebb and flow so that my children are free to grow in other areas of their life and so that God is free to speak to them on those issues. I don’t want anything to be between my child and God other than his or her stuff.
Where are you in the parenting seasons? Are you navigating the changes well or could you use some help? The advice I have received from my mentor has been invaluable. You might want to seek out a wiser, older woman who could help you navigate the stage you are in, too. And let me know if you have any thoughts or questions. I’d love to hear from you.