News bulletin from the front lines of grown up kid parenting: this shit is hard. There are so many stages, so many times you have to morph into another kind of caretaker, guide, bringer upper. There are so many issues, events, and experiences that you know how to handle, and could help your child handle, but are disinvited to even say even a word about (I generally say what I think anyway, but I could be using sign language for all they seem to be hearing me). I do a lot of thinking about what my role should be as a parent, at any given moment. It’s a slippery little monster, and I often feel like “The Little Engine That Could.”
Your role is pretty clear when they’re little and you’re nursing, and keeping them safe and clean. Sure, the exhaustion factor is over the top, but the rules are straight forward. But when they’re older? When they’re old enough to have relationships with the opposite sex, and drink legally, and live independently at college? Well, then what? Is it about money? Does what you’re paying for (like college, apartment, clothing) allow you to demand certain rules be followed? Are they even listening to you, anyway?
I really enjoy my adult kids. They are adorable and funny. And I would want to know them even if they weren’t biologically related to me, and hadn’t caused me a combination of four years of interrupted sleep, and a saggy stomach. But am I giving them any advice they’re using these days, I wonder? Have I just become an old lady, who keeps losing her phone?
The thing is, I totally dismissed my parents when I was older. They were constantly worried about me (just like I am worried about my kids), and always doling out cautionary tales that I thought were stupid, and that I let go in one ear and straight out the other. I felt like they were overreactive, like their ideas were antiquated, and their responses reactionary. Is this what my kids do with my thoughtful and well researched advice? Are they talking behind my back about how silly I am?
I am not silly. I swear. I know a thing or two. And I am social media savvy enough to know a little about what’s going on out there in the bigger world.
But does it even matter? Do kids just have to ignore their parents in an effort to strengthen their own independence?
Should I even keep bothering?
Of course I should, and will. Even though, I know that they are only partially listening, or editing my words as they are coming out of my mouth, or tuning out altogether. But I also know that when I was in a clutch situation in my young adult life, I would flip through the conversations and repetitive advice from my parents and use it. When I needed it, and didn’t have any idea what to do, when my moral compass was spinning, my mind blank, I thought back to Art and Louise, and pictured their faces, and all they’d taught me.
I hope my kids will do the same. Hopefully, some of what I’m droning on about will, at some point, be helpful. Until then, I will have to take comfort in the fact that Riley still listens to me (sometimes, anyway).