Outside the nursery window an insomniac cow moaned in the neighboring pasture. But inside the Noah’s ark themed room the only sound was the sweet puff of my sleeping toddler’s slow breathing.
“Treasure these days, Kay.” My older friend Willie broke the silence with her whispered words as we peeked in on my son. “I remember how sweet it was at the end of a hard day to know that each of my four children were tucked safely into their beds. Life was so much easier when we were all under one roof.”
This wasn’t the normal “treasure the mommy moments” advice. Willie didn’t so much give me advice as she offered me a treasured glimpse into the heart of a mom whose grown children no longer slept in rooms down the hall. In fact, as we looked in on my sleeping son that night, my friend didn’t even know where her oldest son lived.
If your child is grown, regardless of whether he’s living in a suite in your basement, a college dormitory a few hundred miles away, an apartment on the opposite coast or a prison cell upstate, you no longer exercise the kind of control you once did when you lay your own head down at night…just down the hall from his.
Raising children is tough, but it’s hands-on, in eyesight. You may prefer it to be otherwise at times, but as long as you have those kids under your roof and under your supervision, you can generally still “do something” when they hurt, when they lack, when they lose, when they forget, when they mess up.
When our children were babies, my husband and I catered to their every need. They were helpless, so we had to help. And we gladly did so even though that stage of parenting proved to be physically exhausting.
As they learned to understand our words we began to conform our children to the rules of our household. We taught them and insisted they stay within the boundaries we set for their protection. Those years proved to be mentally exhausting.
When our kids had learned the ropes well enough and had begun interfacing more with the world around them, we moved into the coaching stage. Generally, we gave them the lowdown and the expectations, reminded them of the boundaries and sent them into their carefully chosen and guarded little worlds to learn and explore, try and fail, gain and lose. Then they’d come home, sometimes jubilant and successful, other times bruised and worn. We’d patch them up, assure them of our love and set them in the right direction to go out again, brave and courageous. Those were emotionally exhausting years.
The teen years meant our kids were ready for us to move from coaching to consulting…whether we were ready for that shift or not. We had to begin doing even more letting go and even less of giving the lowdown. We learned to watch them struggle and let them fail and allow them to get themselves back on their feet. If we wanted to have conversations with our teens, we had to listen more and talk less. Sure, we still guarded and watched, but from a growing distance. Truthfully, our kids were pretty good during these years, and they required more of us financially and less of us otherwise. Our funds were more exhausted than our bodies or our minds.
And then it happened. They were grown. And they left.
We continue to be their parents, but they’re not down the hall. They don’t need us to cater to them (thank you, Lord!), but we also no longer get to conform or coach them. Some days I wish I could. Some days I accidentally do.
We rarely even get to consult these days. They still ask for our counsel occasionally, but they have both moved on to consulting with other people more than they do with us…friends, co-workers, employers, agents, mentors.
Now my husband and I must simply care. More often than not when they call to tell us something of significance, they simply want us to listen. They want us to know, to pray, to feel a little of what they feel maybe. But they know we can’t fix it and we can’t tell them what to do. They just want to know we care.
But here’s the kicker. It turns out that caring is perhaps the most exhausting stage of all. It doesn’t generally tire us physically or mentally or financially. Neither my husband nor I spend much brain energy or time trying to figure things out for our grown kids. We couldn’t if we tried. But caring from a distance, now that’s a feat of Olympic proportions.
In recent months as each of my grown kids have had their own set of struggles, there have been days when caring has worn me out. Turns out, I was doing more than caring. I was growing anxious. Anxiety grows in us when we fear a possible or impending difficulty and we fear that we or the person we’re concerned about won’t have what it takes to make it through. The problem is that’s not biblical thinking. The truth is God will always make a way to navigate the road ahead, and He will always walk it with us. The truth is we (and our kids) can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. The truth is we have a good God who loves us, who is for us and who is always working things together for the good of those who love Him.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7
If your child is grown and you are exhausted from caring…I get it. But I think we could both breathe a little easier if we’d learn to give the cares we have for our children to our heavenly Father. The implication of 1 Peter 5:7 is that we are supposed to give God full responsibility for our cares. I can say with a humble boldness, “Father, you love me and you love my child. You know the struggle she is facing and how it makes me anxious. But my child and her struggles are really Your responsibility. You alone are wise enough, resourceful enough and loving enough to take care of my child and her dilemma. So I trust You to do just that.” And then we should just say, “Thank you.”
Do you struggle with caring too much? Caring to the point that it really becomes anxiety? Let’s pause and profess our trust in the One who is gladly responsible for the ones we love so much.
I have benefited from Stormie Omartian’s book The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children. You might, too.