I have found that there are certain propositions that once accepted will ease the heartache of parenting a grown child.
I have watched my friends struggle with their teens and young adults. Often there is direct conflict with the person your child has become. But sometimes the struggle is merely due to our inability to wrap our heads around this staggering, head-spinning fact: The passage of time transforms the small child who occupied our every thought into a young adult who wants and needs us to step back and give them space.
I have found that there are certain propositions that once accepted will ease the heartache of parenting a grown child. Once you accept and understand these ten things about parenting, life will be easier:
1. Don’t try to change your children
I presumed that if I parented “correctly” I could make of my child what I wished him to be. Not so. I could help my kids become the best version of themselves, but they were essentially themselves when they were born. Accept your children for who they are, strengths, faults, all of it, and enhance their best qualities. Don’t try to make them in your image, you can’t.
2. Your relationship with your kids will never be 50/50.
The relationship you have with your children will never be 50/50, not by a long stretch. I have heard many complaints that go something like, “After everything I’ve done for them, they can’t even…” The sooner you accept the inequity of the relationship, the better off you’ll be. Someday, if they have kids of their own, they will get it. But, for now, if you can get to a 90/10 relationship consider yourself lucky.
3. Your job as a parent will change as your child gets older
Life is constantly moving the goalposts. While you are in the thick of child-rearing it feels like that part of it will never end. But we all know that all phases pass only to be replaced by another phase and yet another kind of parenting. This happens over and over, and over again. It is a cycle that never ends.
4. Parenthood will become your identity
The role of the parent will become an enormous part of your identity for a time, subsuming all other roles. Parenting is the most immersive, all-consuming experience you will ever have. Period.
5. Your children will do stupid things
It’s not your fault. Repeat after me — “It’s not my fault.” Don’t take the fall for their missteps. Teens sometimes demonstrate a frightening lack of judgment that has nothing to do with how you parented them. This too will eventually sort itself out as they get older.
6. Parents are placeholders
A friend once described her role as a mother as a placeholder, and I couldn’t agree more. If all goes well, parents are holding space for someone who will eventually be their child’s life partner. This is sometimes hard to swallow, bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter if you can accept from the get-go that holding space is a powerful place to be.
Don’t think of it as a demotion when they find their love, think of how impactful and meaningful your job was and congratulate yourself for doing it well enough that they want to start their own family. Then try to love their partner almost as much as your own child.
7. You will always love your children but sometimes you will not like them
Our children can make themselves very unlikable. It’s okay to have moments. There are moments when they don’t like us much either. But, there is always a foundation of love.
8. Parenting is not a competitive sport
Don’t compare your parenting to the way others parent. We are all individuals — you parent your child, let them parent theirs. End of story.
9. Pick your battles
We learned this lesson when they were small, it is only more important now. There is a lot of inherent conflict in the parent/child relationship. Choose to fight or draw a bright line only for the things that are critically important to you.