Right from the outset, the years of parenting grown children should come with a big sign hanging over them, a huge and joyful banner that reads: Welcome to the Season of Reorganization! Suddenly, a house that was stretching at the seams with every bedroom full of stuffed animals and noisy life finds itself with three guest rooms, empty beds, a full refrigerator, and abundant possibilities.
During their years of transition, we surrender closets to our kids’ overflow belongings as cheerfully as we welcomed the displacement of our internal organs to make space for them as they grew within us, and really, what wouldn’t we do to help them launch into a safe and satisfying life?
We happily organize our schedules to accommodate family dinners and try to fit in as many “favorites” on the menu as possible, pressing leftovers on departing guests as if we’re saving them from imminent starvation.
We swallow the urge to offer unsolicited advice, the impulse to say, “I told you so,” and we open our ears to the narrative behind all the stories so we’ll know what’s really going on in their lives.
We listen with horror to accounts of scary escapades and feats of bravery arising from immature pre-frontal cortexes and then thank God that we didn’t know about the incident until after it was over.
We laugh until tears cascade down our cheeks–not because the joke is that hilarious, but because our people are laughing, together, and happy. We recognize that this is 100% GIFT and not a merit badge, a truth that enables us to extend grace to parents of prodigals as we “mourn with those who mourn.”
We reorganize our prayer life around the deep awareness that bad things happen even to “good” people–and then we pray for mercy.
We dip into big-God theology to silence scary what-ifs, knowing that the path to peace is not found in control over our grown-up children’s lives, but in open-hearted surrender to their growing independence.
We live in grateful awareness that the same grace that carried us through our parenting years, the same boatload of grace that’s holding us together in this present, liminal space, is at work in their lives–and it will carry them, too.
Parents of adult children live in grateful awareness that the grace that carried us through our parenting years, the same boatload of grace that holds us together today is at work in their lives–and it will carry them, too.Tweet
And Now Let’s Talk Books…
Touch the Earth is a collection of poems on the way, written as a response to Drew Jackson’s open-hearted reading of Jesus’s life and ministry. By folding his own story–his own family history– into the stanzas of his telling, he presents a Gospel of words, longing to embody truth and startling in their truth-telling.
For example, in the eight poems devoted to the retelling of the prodigal son, the raw story form gives way to motive in the dance of regret and redemption that so closely follows that pattern in our own very present-day lives. Jackson’s poetry is uniquely crafted to challenge and surprise readers with words that come alongside the Truth, “telling it slant.” For the most rewarding experience, read with an open Bible and be patient with the questions that arise within as you ponder big themes of hypocrisy and triumph; mercy and reparation; death and resurrection–all with an open heart.
Holding You in the Light,
Touch the Earth is @djacksonpoetics’s open-hearted response to Jesus’s life and ministry. Folding his own story into the telling, he presents a Gospel of words, longing to embody truth, startling in their truth-telling. @ivpressTweet
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19 thoughts on “Parenting Adult Children? Welcome to the Season of Reorganization!”
This sounds a lot like our family gatherings! Though since my two sisters have moved so far away we are rarely all together anymore.
So hard when geography interferes!
Well said, Michele. The season of parenting adult children is not an easy part of the parenting journey for many reasons and isn’t it odd that we hear and read so much more about those early years of infancy, toddlerhood, and teenage years?
Hey, that’s a GREAT point!
Michele, you stated so many amazing truths in this article. As I read I can agree with ALL that you shared. Even though we were blessed with only one child it is amazing what we have learned as we listen to he and his wife share escapades with us. Parenting adult child is hard…learning when to offer advice and when to bit my tongue! However, it is a journey we are delighted to be able to enjoy (most of the time)!
That part about biting our tongues…
I’m finally learning that it’s best not to offer unsolicited advice. I’m thankful when they come asking, and I’m also grateful for all the signs of growing wisdom I see in our kids.
I’d never thought about it that way, but it’s so true parenting is a state of reorganization throughout. In some ways it’s easier to parent adult children, as we don’t have direct responsibility for them. They have to make their own choices and live with the consequences. But it’s also harder because we can only suggest, and that sparingly. But in every situation, we can trust them to a heavenly father who sees the big picture as well as the inner recesses of hearts and who loves them even more than we do. I cling tightly to Philippians 1:6: “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
I remember when this house seemed cavernous to us–just us, our stuff, and one tiny baby. We blinked, and suddenly the place was bulging with stuffed animals and 40 pairs of sneakers. We’ve reorganized bedrooms for kids and to make room for my mum at one point, and I guess that’s the physical manifestation of what’s going on in our hearts as kids come and then, eventually, fly the nest.
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True, true, true, true.
Each and every line.
But this one is my favorite –
‘we surrender closets to our kids’ overflow belongings as cheerfully as we welcomed the displacement of our internal organs to make space for them as they grew within us’
I’m actually enjoying this last remaining connection to the belongings of our kids. It makes me thankful for the empty rooms and those unused closets. I know sooner or later the last two will come and haul off their Lego buckets and the last of their high school trophies, but for now…
As our eldest (out of three) reached his mid-twenties, I was surprised to realize we were relating to one another differently, almost like friends! It never occurred to me that such a relationship would eventually develop, even though my husband and I had friend-like relationships with our own parents. It’s been such a joy to transition to this unique type of connection with each of our children. And you are so right, Michele: when all eleven of us can be together, those are the best of times.
I love this story, and I think the relationship changes so gradually that we do get a surprise when we realize it!
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Oh, you hit all the things that make parenting adult children a joy and a challenge! Thanks for the chuckles and the insights.
And thank YOU for reading and encouraging!
Oh, Michele, you explain it so perfectly – with grace, humor and truth. You write: “We dip into big-God theology to silence scary what-ifs, knowing that the path to peace is not found in control over our grown-up children’s lives, but in open-hearted surrender to their growing independence.” – Good, courageous truth! I’m glad I know God is so much smarter than me! I love the photo of you and your family – how beautiful – the smiles, the babies, the wives! Simply beautiful! (I had to laugh – I’m always sending leftovers home, too, like they’re starving! LOL)
That photo will always be a treasure because it was the first time all 15 of us were together in one place. And of course, we were eating…
I’m learning, too, that it’s important for me to train my vivid imagination to expect good things from God, to imagine how he will use his limitless power for my family’s good instead of my usual tendency to imagine the worst coming around every curve in the road.
Well said, we are entering this stage of parenting and it’s a learning curve for us.
So grateful to be able to speak a few words into your present challenges. You’re definitely ahead of the game in that you recognize the “learning curve” and the truth that it’s a “stage.”
Michele, I’m so grateful for your wisdom as I look ahead to that season in our family’s life. Especially this: “We dip into big-God theology to silence scary what-ifs, knowing that the path to peace is not found in control over our grown-up children’s lives, but in open-hearted surrender to their growing independence.” Please keep posts like this coming, friend …