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2018-06-06 / Loose Ends

Parent trap

Bringing up grown-ups
Susan Nienow

Parenting adult children is tricky business because they are adults. The process of becoming adults begins when a child first starts to question the parenting decisions his parents make. This usually happens during adolescence if the parents are lucky.

If they’re not, it begins at about two years. That’s when my son first said, “I’ll do it myself.” Nothing was the same after that. I remember frequent push-pull struggles with no clear winner.

Once the kids moved away, there was a period of time when I missed parenting. It helps to have a dog at this point. Some call it the empty nest syndrome, but that is too simple. It isn’t just loneliness – that began when my teens quit acknowledging I was someone they could talk to.

It is that eagerness we parents have to offer our opinions and have them listened to and sometimes even adopted. That’s why I suggest a dog. I used to say, “Sit,” and my dog would look at me like I was speaking in hieroglyphics. Then I would say, “SIT,” and her eyes would connect with mine and then look away. The third “SIT” would elicit a “Humpf” as she sat down. It was clearly delivered with attitude, letting me know this was being done to make me happy, but with full knowledge that she was still boss.

Teenagers are like that, only without any apparent desire to make a parent happy. Trust me, get a dog.

Once the “kids” are through school, off the dole for the most part and living on their own, they start calling to announce their decisions. “I’m moving,” is one. At least five important questions always ran through my mind whenever I heard this one, starting with the deposit at the last place, the deposit at the new place, smoke detectors, renter’s insurance and contract.

I eventually learned to say, “Oh really?” with conviction and not say anything about a roommate. Of course, that restraint only came about after Dad mentioned he was done helping with moves, as he is being careful about his back. After that, we only heard about moves after the fact.

Once my daughter realized she was an adult and could make her own decisions, she moved to a third-world country in Africa. There was spotty electricity and water and no mail – ever. The country didn’t have a postal system. We weren’t asked about that move or any since then.

Now the kids make sneak attacks. They call with a “crisis of the year,” obviously needing parental guidance. Afterward, they hang up, leaving us worried, tense and ready to hop on a plane. And we wait. They don’t call back, so after a week or so, I call.

“Oh, that worked itself out” is all we get. No details, and all that worry for nothing.

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