Talking recently with a 40-something mother of older teens—her near-adult children now off studying and living on-campus—and I detect the semblance of irony when she laughs at herself, “I’m out on the periphery, now!”
It’s something most parents will relate with; that stage in life where, as a parent, we’ve done our job of raising the child, and the child must go now and do what adults do. That’s what we raised them for. But it’s hard—it’s hard to let go and not be more an integral part of their life.
We only ever find ourselves out on the periphery—then we are faced with an unplanned-for adjustment. Only then do we realise how quickly the process of parenthood has passed before our eyes. We recoil, for a time, in disbelief.
How are we to redeem this situation?
Accepting The Phase – Working With It
As parents we’ll know the phase is a temporary one—lasting a few years at best. And we must simply adjust. But there are ways we can add value to our children’s lives—even from a relative distance.
Taking them out on a date of their choice is one example. How many late-teens would knock back coffee or a free meal? Especially if we work in with their schedules, we can meet informally, one-to-one, even for an hour, and stay involved. Servicing their cars or doing shopping with them are other options. Granted that family occasions, at least for a little while, will be more superficial in contact, making date-time a regular thing augurs well for this transient, self-finding phase in their lives.
The worst thing we can do is become demanding, trying to lay on guilt trips for a lack of contact with them. Why, as parents, would we ever gravitate to behave like children, by being demanding?
We brought them up to be independent and that’s what they’re now doing. So where is the logic in our complaint? Just the bare impression of maturity in our teens will have them bemused at our lack of consistency.
We must work with the situation and not against it.
Most of all, and now this is the key within our circumstance; we have the opportunity of modelling mature adult behaviour. Their first-class example of adult behaviour should be us, the parent.
Letting go when we find ourselves out on the periphery as parents of grown children can be the hardest of things. We grieve for the times when our children were younger. With the kids all grown, we wonder why life passes us so quickly. But this relative distance is just a phase. And maintaining a presence in their lives is possible with imagination. But we’ll need to reset our expectations.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.