Sunday, June 5, 2011

Grown up children and their parents

A friend of mine sent me this quote the other day.  I am finding it quite useful to reflect on it 
and to consider its inherent wisdom: 
Katherine Briggs wrote to her daughter Isabel Myers ( I  
think Isabel was in her 20's at the time).
"Please memorize:
It is the PRIVILEGE of parents of grown up children to make suggestions;
and it is the DUTY of the children to give serious consideration to  
those suggestions.
It is the PRIVILEGE of grown up children to make their own decisions;
and it is the DUTY of the parents to respect and acquiesce in these  
As my kids grow up and move into their 20's and out of the house and onto their own, it's so 
important that I back off and let them do what they need to do to live their own lives.  And 
still be there for them as much as they want me to be.  We each have to sort of how much that
is exactly.  Some days it's more, some days it's less.  In some situations, I want it to be more,
and they understandably want it to be less!  For example, Dylan is leaving for China tomorrow 
and I am having some feelings about it.  I trust him completely so it has nothing to do with that at all.
I just worry a bit because it's a gigantic country, he doesn't speak much Chinese, and he'll be 
alone most of the time.  He has done an amazing job preparing for it, but that doesn't mean I'm
not a bit concerned about his two month odyssey.  And I'm excited for him and can't wait
to hear the tales!  It is certainly a mixed bag.  He doesn't need or want my concerns right now, 
and it isn't appropriate for me to share them with him, especially since they aren't overly rational. 
He is sensitive enough that he sense them anyway, poor guy!  And he knows that if he needs me, 
I'm here.  My job is to stay away unless I'm needed and let him grow as he grows and live his life - 
it is, after all, HIS life! 
Parenting is a lot trickier than I ever thought it would be.  I think there should be classes in school 
to teach people how to parent.  And communicate effectively.  And handle ones anger.  And finances. 
So many things would be more useful than some of the academics we learn and are so hard to
come by on ones own.
Here's wishing Dylan a safe, wonderful journey, and each of you a safe, wonderful journey 
with your kids! 

1 comment:

  1. Susan, I think your decision not to burden Dylan with your worries is a compassionate choice. I completely agree that parenting is tricky and that most of us, if not all, would benefit from learning a lot more about anger management and nonviolent communication before launching on this journey.

    Briggs' comment to her daughter is, in my opinion, vastly oversimplified. One cannot necessarily say what privileges all parents and children can or should have. There are few, if any, one-size-fits-all platitudes that can be applied to that relationship.

    I might argue that having a relationship with one's adult child is a privilege in and of itself. A parent can earn this privilege, in part, by showing themselves to be a respectful person worthy of trust and capable of nonviolent emotional closeness. Much depends on the personalities of parent and child, too. Giving advice might or might not fit well into a particular parent-child dynamic.

    An adult child does not, in my opinion, have a duty to listen to or accept advice from his or her parent. All adults in all relationships have the right to say "I don't want to discuss this." While doing so might have negative effects on the relationship, it is the right of any person on the receiving end of advice to set their own boundaries. It is the duty of all people to respect the boundaries of others.

    Making decisions about one's own adult life is not a privilege. It is a right. The only times I can think of when that right is removed is when the person has committed a crime punishable by the justice system, or when the adult is mentally incapacitated.

    I do agree that parents have a duty to respect and accept their adult child's decisions. The word "acquiesce" implies permission or allowing the child to make their own decisions. Permission doesn't play into it. The adult child has a right to make decisions, full stop. No permission needed. In fact, it would be terribly condescending and disrespectful for a parent to either grant or deny permission to their adult child for anything that does not directly affect the parent.

    Many times, I've pondered over what I will do when my children are grown. Under what circumstances should I give them advice? So far here's what I've arrived at:
    1) I will give them advice when they ask for it, if I think I am qualified to give advice.
    2) If I feel the need to offer advice, I will ask if I may advise them, and abide by their reply.
    3) The only time I will give "pushy" advice that oversteps those boundaries is when I see clear, present, extreme, certain danger. Not something that I think *might* be dangerous, not a situation that *could* turn out poorly, not something that simply offends my own moral code, but REAL, BIG DANGER. I hope I never have a need to give that kind of advice.