Once again the importance of staying connected with our adult children has been pounded home to me. The past several weeks are proof that although I believe my husband and I should “have a life,” when our children’s needs arise we must make ourselves available to counsel, encourage, and even physically lend a hand if possible.
This past month has taken me to the east coast where my son and daughter-in-law have moved to finish his residency program. The challenging pace of his schedule, three small children, and a limited budget dictated the need for parental involvement to help move, settle and organize this little family. Work commitments and health concerns limited Katie’s parents and my husband’s availability, but gratefully, I was willing and able to give support. Each day and every waking hour my thoughts were focused on how I could help relieve the pressure they felt during this major move and demanding schedule. Together, Katie and I unpacked, organized, cleaned, purchased, painted, sewed, and laundered, all the while keeping ten-month-old twins and a five year old fed, clean and happy. As my daughter-in-law dropped me off at the airport, warm hugs were shared, and tears were shed. A loving bond was strengthened as we worked together in our common cause.
Just days after my arrival home one of our single sons called. He didn’t call to complain or ask for anything. But we could tell that he was discouraged. We visited with him for more than an hour trying to support and encourage, but when our conversation ended, I looked at my husband and said, “We need to drive to Los Angeles.” Thank heavens we were both able to make that six-hour road trip. The next morning we pulled out of our garage at 5 a.m. About an hour out of LA I called our son and asked, “How would you like to go to lunch?” There was a grateful silence, and then I heard, “Sure!”
We spent the afternoon with him in positive, supportive, fortifying conversation. As I watched his countenance change, and his spirits rise, I knew that we had made the right decision. Work schedules demanded that we head for home, but that afternoon impacted all of us. As we embraced and said our goodbyes I knew that our efforts had made a difference.
Parental involvement never stops…it just changes. When they are small, we feed, clothe, bathe, protect, hug and kiss and love them. When they cry, we pick them up in our arms and our soothing makes everything right again.
They grow and become more independent, but still they look to us to feed, clothe, encourage bathing, discipline, teach, set boundaries, hug and kiss and love them. When they cry, we hug and kiss them, and that, coupled with an ice cream cone solves all their problems.
The teenage years are a new ballgame. We feed them. We encourage opportunity for making money so they can clothe themselves. We teach, discipline, set boundaries, try to hug and kiss them, set boundaries, set boundaries, (am I repeating myself?) …And through it all we try our best to make sure they know our love is unconditional. Our time and listening solve most of their problems. With our guidance they also learn how to solve their own problems, and we pray they learn to differentiate the real problems from the perceived.
And then our children “miraculously” become adults. They leave home, and most are thrilled to be on their own…to be free of all those darn boundaries. Some of our children move forward, some regress. We are more in the background. But we are there, and they know we are there. We make those Sunday afternoon calls, and when we perceive they are too busy the calls are short, but they know we are there. “Periodically” financial help is all they need from us. And hopefully we can give that support. We get involved with life without our children…and we should.
But it’s those phone calls we receive, when their silent tears are heard with our heart’s hearing. And we recognize that our child is still our child even though he has a grown up body, grown up responsibilities, and he may not have the ability to cry. That is when our parental instincts kick in, and we become available, hopefully without enabling.
I will never forget the sweet experience my sister shared when her life seemed too overwhelming. From states away, our dear dear father called her, and began the conversation singing, “I just called to say I love you. I just called to say how much I care.” Each and every child should have such an experience, no matter how old or mature.