I’m 60 years old and when I go on vacation with my wife, I still have to call my 85-year-old mother to let her know I got there. As a kid, this was a terrible nuisance. As a young adult, it was completely unnecessary. As a parent of adult children, I finally understand it.
My mother always told me it eased her mind knowing that I had arrived safely. And besides, “You never stop being a parent,” she said. “As long as my eyes are open, I’ll worry about you and your brother.” I never thought much about it, but as my adult boys (28 and 25) get older, it seems that I do worry about them, even though I can no longer protect them like I did when they were little. In my eyes, they will always be 12 and 9.
Following my mother’s lead, when they were kids, I required they call me when arriving at a friend’s house for a play date, even if it was just down the block. If they changed location for any reason, I wanted to know. I needed to move my mental “push-pin” from one location on the imaginary map in my mind to another.
During their early years, parents provide their kids with guidance, support and protection, essentially making most of their decisions for them. You bought their clothes, you had final say on what movies they saw, and you certainly had veto power on tattoos and piercings. You were the parent, after all.
Sure, they can pick the instrument they want to play or the activity they want to sign up for, but you are not going to let them quit school at 16 and join the circus, are you? You may not be able to steer them to the college or career you prefer, but you are certainly going to do your best to make sure they go to college or a trade school.
Young adults need to begin making decisions on their own at some point. You have invested almost half your life instilling values into them and helping them grow, but it’s time to let go. Only problem is, you just can’t.
Unfortunately, you can only offer advice from the stands now; you are no longer the manager. You can shout things at them and hope they hear you, but they no longer have to listen to you. It’s more frustrating as you both get older.
You’d think that with all this adult experience available, our children would take advantage of that knowledge, avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes they are eventually headed for. But that’s not how it works. You can warn them 100 times not to touch the stove because it’s hot, but they don’t understand it until they find out for themselves.
When I was in my 20s, I never understood what my parents were trying to tell me since, of course, I knew better. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized they were usually right. And now it’s my turn to be the old man that yells at the clouds.
They will always be my kids, no matter how old we both get. I’ll still try and protect them when I can, and shake my head in frustration when I can’t. The same way I smiled and completely ignored my parents, I’m sure they smile and completely ignore me. At some point, they will see that I was right all along, but that’s not going to happen until they can reach up and touch the stove for themselves. We can only hope that when they do, they don’t get seriously burned.
Today, both of my children like to travel and have already visited places that my wife and I have only dreamed of going to. But it doesn’t matter where they go or how they get there, I still want a text message when they arrive so I can move that push-pin…