I thought when my girls were grown that parenting would get easier. I’m finding out it’s just different.
For sure, the physical demands have eased. No more long nights up with a crying baby or late nights waiting up for a teen. No more schlepping babies in car seats or chauffeuring teens to and from activities.
But the emotional demands continue. And if our grown child is struggling, it often takes a toll on us, their mothers.
As you can guess, I’m a big fan of support groups. I attend at least one a week, and now lead some too, having been trained in group facilitation.
In one of these groups, one woman spoke such a powerful truth that I wrote it down.
She said: “The hardest thing a parent does is watch their child go through pain.” Ok, you might say, what’s so powerful about that?
It’s what she added that stopped me in my tracks: “And we don’t get to take that away from them.”
Their pain is theirs to own and come to terms with and get help for and learn from and process through. Their pain is their lesson, their opportunity for growth.
I spent years trying to protect my children from pain, even taking theirs on as my own, and striving to fix/manage/control at all costs. I see now how destructive this anxious parenting has been, both for me and for them.
When I can’t tolerate another’s pain, I invalidate their feelings. I communicate that they need to help me manage my own anxiety, and in so doing I ask them to take care of me. And I distract them from their job, which is to work through their pain.
That is not ok. I am working hard to change this ingrained pattern in me. I am learning to listen more deeply to my children when they share their pain. To sit with them however they show up. To refrain from offering unsolicited advice or resources. To create a safe container for understanding and compassion. To simply be, alongside them.
This is very hard to do. But this is my work. I am trying, and sometimes I am failing, but I will continue to try.
YOUR TURN: What challenges have you experienced parenting adult children? What’s your best advice to other parents? Please share in the comments!