The challenge of parenting adult children

Our daughter has safely arrived in Nepal and by all reports, is already having a great time šŸ™‚

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Watching her walk under that ‘departure’ signĀ by herself was a very hard parenting moment. But we did it! Waiting to hear from her after the plane had landed that she was with staff and at the hotel was a very long two hours. But we did it!

In the lead up to her trip,Ā the various responses about it to us as parents has been interesting to say the least. We’ve had people look at us like we are the most irresponsible parents in the world, others who just shake their heads and say they wouldn’t allow their child to do it, those who’ve just said they wouldn’t be able to do it, and those few who thought it was fantastic.

I chatted it over with a wise and wonderful friend of mine and worried that if something happened to her, and we knew we could have stopped her going, we would never forgive ourselves. She said, “Stopping her from going would have been an abuse of your parental power.”

That gave me so much comfortĀ in the days before her flight. Although we probably could have talked her out of it (I think!), there is no way we should have. Whenever we’re given the privilege of an invitation by our adult childrenĀ to weigh in on theirĀ decision making, we need to be mindful that it is just that – a privilege. We don’t have any right to say what they should do once grown. We need to give them that unconditional love – regardless of whether that decision is going to make us uncomfortable by stressing us or causing us to worry.

We’ve already had a bit of practice with this, since our 24 year old son will never, ever have a nice safe job in an office and a house in the suburbs five doors down from us. He has always sought an ‘unsafe’ life and has never shied away from doing ‘the hard thing’ either. Not that he is reckless or risk-taking for the sake of it, quite the opposite. His decisions are calculated and thoughtful. But they are not ‘safe’ from a parental perspective.

Too often we view our children as possessions, something to be proud of and shown off to our friends. And we are far too often worried about how their decisions affect us, rather than them.

We need to take a step back sometimes and check where we are coming from. Are we advising them based on our fears or their best life, whatever that may look like?

Our children are not ‘ours’. They are their own. And the more we realise that, the more peace we will have, no matter what they decide to do or where they decide to go to do it.

Do the hard thing.

To say my brain is a bit frazzled of late would be an understatement and the events of today have only served to prove it.

My 11 year old daughter had try-outs for a sport after school, meaning that she needed to be picked up later than usual. So I planned my day around picking her up at the appointed time. As it was raining, I figured the try-outs would be in the massive auditorium her school has. I turned up, the hall was full of seating and NO STUDENTS.

Now, I should point out right here that one of my children not being where they are supposed to be at any given time is a major panic button for me. Throw any other crisis at me and I amĀ rational, logical, calm. I am generally your ‘go to girl’ for anything – except if one of my children isn’t where they should be.

I began, as you can imagine, to run (something I typically avoid at all costs). I ran to the sports office, frightening, I suspect, the poor teacher sitting quietly at his desk, frantically asking where my daughter was. Then I ran to the main admin, rang the buzzer about 13 times and started going into all those ‘staff only’ places. Then I ran to the middle school admin block and then I ran when I saw my daughter patiently waiting for me.

If you’ve ever lost a child in a shopping centre, in a park, anywhere – you will know the feelings that swept through me as soon as I clapped eyes on her. I cried. Which made her cry. Which made me cry even more. We hugged as though we’d been separated for months instead of just one day and only an hour and half more than normal.

You see, I missed the call on my phoneĀ to tell me try-outs were cancelled, and forgot to call the number I hadn’t recognised back when I got home. I didn’t look at the two emails telling me the same thing.

Because my head is full and it’s making me scatterbrained.

Because in one week, one of my children will be hopping on a Nepal bound plane and won’t be on the return flight for eight weeks.

Eight. Weeks.

She is going with a great organisation. She will be doing all sorts of wonderful volunteering activities. She will be having the time of her life. And I couldn’t be more excited for her.

At barely 18 years old, sheĀ is stepping into the lifeĀ GodĀ planned for her. She is stretching her wings. Stretching her faith.

She is bold. Brave and gutsy. “I want to do it because it’s hard. Because I don’t want a ‘safe’ life. And what are we doing if we’re not helping people?”

And this mama’s heart is breaking and bursting with pride all at the same time. Her bravery inspires me. Her courage gives me courage, urges me to rally and not get stuck on ‘what ifs’. If she’s brave enough to go, I need to be brave enough to let her. If her faith is big enough at 18, mine surely better be at 43.

So how’s this mama going to cope with an eight week trip to Nepal when a simple time mix up sends her into a flat spin?

I guess I’ll just have to take my lead from my now grown up baby – be brave. Do the hard thing. And have faith.

……I might have to add a little wine to that list though šŸ˜‰