Remember when I told you all about our drop off for college kid #2 this year? (See: 1000 miles) Okay, it really was only two weeks ago. As I was sitting down to continue discussing parenting adult kids and actually answering the questions I posted last week, the phone dinged. As it has gone the last two weeks, I hear from Katie most mornings. It’s usually a quick chat as she goes to class or grabs breakfast. This was different. Whether it’s distance, change, loneliness or just plain not feeling well, she was more down. As with any time one of our kids call, we have options.
First, let me just go back to last weeks blog post. (See: Control or Influence) Did you catch last week how I really didn’t give any practical advice on parenting adult kids? I gave one of the keys that gives us the ability to parent them, influence and trust. You may have been left scratching your head and thinking, this wasn’t helpful at all! I believe a foundation is always necessary to build anything of substance. The beauty of relationships is it’s never too late to invest in them and to build or rebuild upon the foundation. Now before we get too much further into this story, let me just say, I have not gotten it all right. In fact I have missed the mark in parenting and how I’ve handled situations with my adult kids more times than I like to admit. It gives me though the first piece of advice I would give anyone for their kids.
Tell your kids how you’ve messed up or missed the mark.
I feel like I have built more credibility by admitting my shortcomings and failures and asking them for forgiveness. I don’t do it often enough and if our kids (and us) can’t learn from them, then what is the point? This requires sometimes we share with our kids the less flattering sides of ourselves. Now this doesn’t mean you dig up all the dirt you can and have a uncomfortable conversation but try to remember what it was like when you were their age and use your experiences to share in God given moments.
This brings me back to today and college kid #2. Following a few texts we got the phone call. If you have ever sent your kid to college you probably know the call I’m talking about. It’s not the “I can’t find my class” or “Where do I wash my clothes?”, it was the tone of her voice and what wasn’t said.
Immediately, I made myself pause and think twice.
More than anything, brains or beauty, I want and prayed my kids would love Jesus, follow His will for their lives and be kind. I want them to work hard and have compassion. I want them to be independent but humble enough to accept help. When Morgan went to college I knew I would need to back off and be quiet. Encourage her, yes, and even give her a nudge once in a while. She swam since she was 8 years old so her transition to college included being on the swim team. For me, that meant I knew she would have an instant group of friends. She would have routine and be busy enough to keep her going through the adjustment of going away. Or so I thought. She called crying over FaceTime several times a week. Who created that anyway? SOOOO painful to see her cry so much and watch her struggle. And that’s what we did. We didn’t call her, we waited. And when she did call, we watched and listened. Sure we would encourage her to hang in there and tell her it would be okay but we didn’t go rescue her. I always paused and thought twice before and during our conversations. Why? Because I am a fixer. I want to rescue you from danger (or anything perceived as such) and make things all better. There were even times (sorry Morgan) that I didn’t answer the phone and handed it to my husband Ryan. It was so hard on my momma heart.
Three years later and here I am again. Katie’s on the other side of the phone and I paused and thought twice. I suggested a walk and Starbucks (because doesn’t that make everything better?) but I held back asking leading questions like “are you unhappy” or “do you want to come home”.
My job now as a parent is to let my kids live their lives. Encouraging them while pausing long enough to think twice before I speak to them. Am I telling them what I want them to do or am I guiding them to help them make the best decisions for their lives?
Our kids know how we would answer most questions. Sometimes they are looking for an out and other times they need us to parent them in a way that encourages their independence and affirms what feels so daring to them in that moment.
Build a foundation of influence and trust, admitting and apologizing when you make mistakes, and pausing to think twice. For anyone sending off their kids to college, these are the lessons I’ve learned and things that have helped me to along the way.
Living day to day-