Monday, March 7, 2011

Parenting the Grown-Ups

We spent the last few days in Utah. The first two days, it was just me and Brad. It was such a treat. No schedules. No plans. Just whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it.
We spent Saturday and Sunday with our three grown kids—Tucker in Provo and Heidi and Sam drove down from Rexburg. It was enjoyable—hanging with the big kids, doing grown-up stuff, not having to worry about babysitters or kids’ schedules. Brad went to the final BYU basketball home game with the boys, while Heidi and I did a little baby shopping and talking. We had adult dinners at real restaurants with uninterrupted conversations and saw PG-13 movies.

This all led me to think about parenting grown kids, and how different it is from parenting the young ones still at home.  I’m still pretty new at this "parenting adults" game, but here are a few things I’ve learned in the two short years I’ve been here:

Let them live their lives with as little interference from home as possible. I love to hear what’s going on with them. I love to listen to their funny escapades with roommates and professors. I love to see how they’re growing and changing. But I’ve come to realize that I have no control over their choices or decisions. And when I try to intervene, it’s almost always resented. So I’m laying low.

Let them make their own mistakes. I see them weathering storms—bad grades or poor time management or exhaustion or discouragement. I can’t shelter them from it. I can only be the listening ear of encouragement and support. And I love it when those calls come, asking for my advice or just wanting to vent to their mom.

Let them call home when they have time. Tucker loves to talk to all of his siblings every Sunday, hearing what’s going on at home. Heidi and Sam took Micah’s Flat Stanley on adventures in Rexburg and sent home valentines for each child. They still love "home,"  it's just a different place for them now.

Let them tell you what they expect out of you. I’ve asked Heidi this question a few times, and each time I’ve gotten the same answer—Support us in our decisions. They don’t want and don’t need micromanagement. I think this is the problem with most young adults today. The kids and parents are still too interdependent. Kids need to grow up, make their own decisions and mistakes, and learn on their own. And parents need to butt out.

Enjoy the journey. It is a fun ride when they reach adulthood, when they can successfully navigate the waters of the world alone. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong. I sometimes still wish that I was the center of their world, guiding them to make the decisions I would make, leading them by the hand as I did when they were toddlers. I still wish all my chicks were here under my wing all the time.  And that hurts sometimes.  But I see these wonderful, productive, smart, fun, interesting, independent adults they’re becoming, and I can’t help but smile.

It’s all good. So good.

Are you ready for the link tomorrow? If you missed the prompt, here it is:
If you had your choice, would you want to know the future? Would you want to know that your life will be markedly, frighteningly different than you’ve planned all along? Or would you rather have the change come quickly, like an uncontrolled locomotive, leaving disaster in its wake, with you scrambling to pick up the pieces?

And I apologize for that tiny type on Friday. I had no idea I'd done that, and Tucker was begrudging every minute I spent on the computer at his apartment!


  1. All stages of enjoying your children are good, but having adult children can be extra special.

  2. Great post. After Mark and I got married, my Mom and Dad always told us how great we were doing and never gave advice unless we asked for it. We always appreciated that and have tried to follow the same pattern with our adult kids. I think of it as "Encourage, don't advise."

  3. i read what ur saying and totally agree..i just hope i can apply those when the time comes b/c they were right on the point!

    i thought parenting would get easier as the years go on...seems more challenging!

  4. That is so true.
    It's still hard to have grown kids though, cuz I am the same. I don't want them to make mistakes.

    I keep telling myself that Lehi still counseled with his boys.

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Nothing like having totally alone time with other adults. No Dora or Teletubbies.

    Drive safely home.

  5. Looks like a great dinner! What movie did you go see? Reviews? Wise advice-I especially like the idea of asking them what they expect your role to be. Might as well put it all on the table & know just what you both expect. Life's just easier that way.

  6. I think I need to print this one out and save it...all REALLY good advice. Advice I wish my own mother would take sometimes :) You're a great mom Jenny xoxo

  7. You've learned a lot already, Jen! It took me much longer to figure all of that out.


  8. PS. And I still don't always execute it as well as I could!

  9. This is so wonderful. My husband's mother still wants to cut up his steak I swear. Drives me batty - he is 42! LOL. Love this post!

  10. I've experienced both. The micromanaging parents (mine), and the supportive ones (LaMar and me, hopefully. At least we try to butt out.) I love Laraine's comment: "Encourage, don't advise." It works soooo much better! The hardest part for me is when problems come - because big kid problems are big and serious. Its' sometimes hard to find that line between hysterical meddling and quiet support.

  11. so so bummed I missed you guys this weekend, but thanks for bringing up the bag of stuff. and I'm really excited for "spring break." :)

  12. Did you notice that Heidi looks like she has a halo?

  13. i love your words of wisdom, jen - i'm only at the very beginning of the "letting go" process and wow is it ever hard ... the grey hairs are coming into full bloom ;-)

  14. OHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! You and I are onthe same page! My boys are 24,21 and 19 and I parent them EXACTLY as you do! I also " lay low"! Sometimes it's so dand hard! But... We are wise wise women!
    Great post!
    Have a pretty day!

  15. I can't even see past the teenage years yet. I can imagine that stage is fun, frightening and frustrating all at once.

  16. I learned from my parents, who were great 'parents of grown-ups' that its best to be there as back up, but not to offer advice - give support and encouragement. We try to follow that with our two adult children and it must work because we see them and hear from them a lot.

  17. I really liked this post Jen. We have a ways to go still, but that doesn't mean I don't think about it. I remember the transition with my own parents, and how much I needed their encouragement.

    It looks like a great dinner! And how wonderful to have adult conversation with your own children!

  18. I have always loved every stage...and I do think about how much fun it will be when we are all adults. I love your thoughts on this!
    How did I miss the english teacher post?

  19. can i adopt you??? seriously, i want to.

    also, this made me miss rexburg:) i love that place! it was where sean and i spent the first four years of our marriage, and i taught as a first year teacher. and where i did my student teaching. LOVE that place!!!