I sit here writing today as a frustrated and worried mother of three young adult children. For the past several months, I have stayed awake fretting over this one or that one’s life, wondering if they’re depressed, disappointed, or happy, and asking if I prepared them for life, listing all the things I could have done better. In short, I’ve been being a mom.
Today, as I interacted with my two more introverted offspring, a little voice told me, “Step back, let them live. They know where to find you if they need you.” I know that voice is right. I have to not only trust myself, but more importantly, I have to trust my kids. Nobody, after all, is ready for life.
Like every phase in my kids’ lives, it comes with an adjustment period, a pause in the routine that sets the cart off balance and my world listing dangerously to one side. But, once I find my focus, take a deep breath, slowly things right itself once more…until the next phase arrives that is. This is life, not just as a parent, but in general. Something will always arise to send your world spinning, but if you can just pause, take a deep breath, and get your perspective, it will soon settle back into place.
One of the things my mother often tells me is “How do I know how to be a mother to a (fill in the blank for an age)? I’ve never been the mother to a child of that age before, or to that particular child at that given age.” I kept this in mind when I became a parent and hold it close to my heart even now, for truly, parents have no clue what they are doing. We simply do the best we can with the tools we have. Some of us come with an entire out building filled with tools, and some of us are lucky to have a hammer to our name. And even then, there will be times, we can’t find the key to get into that outbuilding to access the tools.
So, as I navigate for the first time with a 22-year-old fresh out of college who wants to move to England, a 20-year-old college student who wants to move in with her boyfriend, and an 18-year-old high school senior who has only a vague idea of what he wants to do, I am reminded to be gentle with myself and patient with them. All of us are new at this.
While talking my daughter down from a panic attack, and assuring my son that it is okay if he takes a gap year after high school, I was reminded of what it was like to be their age – unsure of your future, full of ideas and plans but not having a clue how to make them happen, scared of the unknowns, wanting to strike out on your own and yet still wanting the security of home. It’s not easy for any young adult and yet society, and parents, place so much pressure on them to have it all figure out and their act together upon turning 18, and certainly by the time you graduate college. But, having observed numerous adults over my 46 years of being on this planet, I haven’t’ seen anyone of any age, truly know what they are about because life is ever changing. This brings to mind another thing my mother likes to say, “How do I know how to be a (insert age)? I’ve never been then this age before.” So if “adults” don’t know what they’re doing, why would we expect our kids too?
I say all of this because I am confident that somewhere out there, there are other parents worrying and struggling to let their children grow up. So maybe, this will bring you a little comfort in learning that you are not alone. Just as we survived those sleepless nights when they were infants, and the wonderful middle school years, we shall survive this too.