Please can someone write a guide book about how we as parents – parent our adult children.
Just like our babies don’t miraculously turn into well adjusted and successful adults at the stroke of midnight on their eighteenth birthday, we don’t miraculously lose our parental instincts, constant worry and need to guide and control.
My daughter is twenty-two this year and is currently spending her fourth year living away from home. In this time, I have seen her (slowly) mature from a naïve eighteen-year-old to a slightly more savvy young adult. This last year has seen her attempt to budget, take on constructive criticism a little more openly and think of me and her Dad as more than just a cashpoint and a taxi (although these remain our primary uses). My point here is not to berate or chastise my young person for learning to make her way in the world, or to moan about having to still parent her. My point is the huge blurry grey area that I face when the beautiful young woman in front of me needs a telling off, being told no, her heart mended, or a frank reality check.
I yearn for the days when I was in my twenties and she was a young child. I had the autonomy and control to decide what was best for her and that was that. She would look at me, listen to me and do exactly what she was told to do and I would sleep at night knowing that her welfare, physical and mental health were my sole responsibility – and a responsibility that was my life’s work.
So, when I was in my thirties and she a tween and then a teen, it maybe wasn’t as clear cut as before, but essentially I still had a handle on her choices and actions. I might have been asked ‘Why do I have to?’ or ‘Why is it up to you?’ but I could answer these questions very easily with a version of ‘…because that’s what is best for you.’
The preceding years to adulthood all come with a guide when it comes to parenting; pre natal, post natal, newborns, toddlers, young children, tweens, and teens. You only have to search Amazon or the local bookshops to find a wealth of help and guidance from experts and celebrities who are eager to make us feel that we are not alone. Have a look for any advice for parenting an adult and there is literally nothing. Why?
We don’t just stop being a parent, and they don’t stop needing us to parent.
These are some of the barriers that I have come up against when parenting an adult:
Example 1- Medical Issues
Me: ‘Have you put in your prescription?’
Her: ‘No, I will do it tomorrow.’
Repeat conversation 10 days in a row with an additional ‘Mum, I will sort it – stop going on.’
Me: ‘What’s the matter?’
Her: ‘I’ve run out of medicine?’
-insert blown up head emojii
Example 2- Money
Her: ‘Yayyyyy it’s payday.’
Me and Dad: ‘Put your bill money away and work out how much you need each week.’
Her: ‘Please, I have just been paid – stop going on – I know OK. I know how to pay my bills I have being doing it for the last three years.’
(Me and Dad look at each other thinking well no, technically you haven’t but….)
Me and Dad: ‘Just be sensible. Don’t be a dickhead – you are in your first proper job and you are not a Housewife of Beverly Hills.’
We get no reply but her Instagram stories show that over the next 8 hours she is in a range of restaurants and bars living a life exactly like she is a Housewife of Beverly Hills.
One week later a photo comes through of a plate of plain pasta and a glass of water
Me: What’s that?’
Her: ‘My dinner.’
Another photo pings through of her crying real tears with a sad face.
Her: ‘I spent all my money and I forgot about the most important bills. Please can you help me?’
-insert red swear mouth emojii
Example 3- is best described by the image below and has caused no end of friction between me and my daughter:
For me one of the hardest things is when I get a Facetime accompanied by sobs, a sad face and a tale of woe about how someone close to her has hurt her feelings. Now my girl is by no means perfect and without a doubt she has made mistakes within her relationships (like we all do), but I struggle so much with how to parent in this situation.
My intuition guides me to tell her to cut them off, ghost them, ignore them and never ever look at them or speak to them again under any circumstances – anything to ensure that they are never able to make her feel like that again. After this sort of incident, I carry her hurt, I can’t stop thinking about her, it stops me sleeping and then….ping…
A picture of my girl with said mean person having a whale of a time.
She now pre-empts my maternal grudges and eternal despise of these ‘friends’ by letting me know the severity of the relationship misdemeanour prior to the tears and woe. She is mostly just venting and having a moan.
Example 4- My needs more than hers.
Ever since she has been going out-out I have asked her to let me know roughly what time she will be home and to message me when she gets in. This has been especially comforting to me when she has been living away from home and I have not been able to hear her fumbling with the keys, banging the door shut, making toast, waking the dogs up and hiccupping herself to sleep.
She was home recently and as she swanned out of the door amidst a cloud of perfume and Rosé, I said:
‘Message me what time you will be home.’
and she replied
‘Oh my God, how long am I going to have to do this for?’
and I replied
‘For as long as I need you to, for as long as I am your mum, because I need to know that you are safe – OK?’
I told my mum I was writing this article and she laughed and laughed and laughed. I asked her why was she laughing and she said that one day I would understand.
I am sure she was implying that maybe I still need parenting too – cheeky woman!