My parents have always pointed out that there’s no instruction manual when you pack up that tiny newborn in that seemingly gigantic carseat and drive away with them from the hospital.
And that is crazy, right?
I mean, you have to take classes to be qualified for just about everything in the world, but parenting? Nope, just cradle that little precious bundle right on out into “real life” and hope it goes well!
Well, I’m here to say that it’s kind of the same when you send kids off, the brand-spanking-new-“adult” version of them, off into the big wide world.
I know there are some schools of thought about “parenting” being done and over with when kids leave home. You’ve worked your way out of a job. They’ve got this!
But my personal school of thought is that when they leave home, and forever and always, you will be their parent. Your love and connection will always be important to bind you together. The way you parent will need to shift and change, and they’ll start teaching you much more than you ever taught them, but you’re still forever and always bound together and I’m so grateful I get to be bound to these people I love so much.
Anyway, now that I have FOUR young adults (six if you count the in-laws), and sometimes I do want that “instruction manual” on how to go about this new territory, I’m always contemplating that balance.
I read this book last fall right in the middle of my what-balance-to-parent-young-adults quandary:
(It is so good and you can find it HERE and I learned so much since I hate to say it but I knew practically nothing about James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States.)
It isn’t, of course, about parenting. It is a pretty spectacularly well-researched historical sketch of President Garfield’s life. But since I was thinking parenting, of course, as things tend to do when you are thinking hard about something, one part really stuck out to me:
As the author was outlining Garfield’s growing up years, she talked about how he wanted nothing more than to simply “work the canals” when he left home. He had no desire to go to school.
But his mother knew an education would benefit him so greatly. To her, “education was salvation.” She wanted the very best for that boy of hers.
So when he was away working the canals for his first year, she worked her tail off to raise some money for his education: $17. A nest egg for the beginning of growing his mind. And when he came home and was offered that gift, he took it.
I just thought that was such a beautiful way to parent that young adult. He did what he wanted to do, but she was able to give him that gift and without pushing or prodding (at least from what I read), he was able to make that decision with a newfound freedom from his mother to make it happen.
I just thought that tiny part of the whole story was so incredible. The power to change the trajectory from a mother who most likely prayed and pondered about how to help that adult of hers.
Who knows how his life would have gone otherwise, maybe it would be wonderful in many other ways. Or maybe it would have still led to what he did through other avenues.
But I loved thinking of the love of that mother for that son of hers and how she believed in him and nudged him in such a beautiful way.
Lots more in that book that was so interesting, but that’s my little nugget to share for today.
Would love to hear other thoughts on “the best way to parent young adults,” because Heaven knows there are so many “right” ways!