Independence or Isolation?

I remember when I was a young mom talking to a friend.  She told me a story about her girlfriend from the factory where she worked.  This friend’s adult daughter was having lots of struggles with her boyfriend and her mom was spending lots of time trying to help her.  It was a this point my friend realized what a commitment parenting was.

Our society perpetuates the myth of “independence.”   Actually, we’re herd animals.  We’re cows not woodchucks.  More to the point we’re chimps, not leopards.  If you look at any hunter-gatherer society [we evolved for 90% of our human history as hunter-gatherers–some 130,000 years], there is no age group that lives independently.

I think our generation has figured out a few things that our parents’ generation was confused about.  Several men I know were kicked out of their homes because their hair was long [!]

So, it is not a failing of our adult children if they need our support as they navigate this very complex and often irrational society.  It is also a relatively new phenomenon in human society for young people to be required to figure out both their profession and life partner on their own.  And in those early societies, everyone worked together; no isolated cubicles.

So what role can we parents play in our adult children’s lives to genuinely assist?  Here are some thoughts I’ve had:

  • As with our youngest people, criticizing and blaming our children for their mistakes or bad choices; it won’t help.
  • Listen, without judgement.
  • And especially stay close and encourage their unloading feelings.  Crying, even crying a lot, does not mean your child needs meds.  It just means your child, even if that child is 50, needs to cry.  And perhaps cry a lot. If you can be a calm reassuring presence, it will be surprisingly helpful.
  • Give the support, your time especially, that you can.  I know we expect some rest after so many years of child-raising–and most likely we ourselves got limited support from our parents–and that expectation is understandable, but our children actually need us to continue maturing in this world.

Have you figured out a few more?

Advertisements

One thought on “Independence or Isolation?

  1. A guest from Kenya discussed the topic with me this afternoon. She said that even if our adult children don’t always want to hear our opinions, it is important to let them know we care by telling them what we’ve learned in our lives. She said there is a Kenyan saying, “I saw the sun before you were born” (paraphrased) and that her children sometimes stop her, saying, “I know you saw the sun first!” It’s a delicate line – maybe one that is drawn in different places in different countries – between giving our opinions where they aren’t wanted, or needed, and giving the impression of being disconnected from our children’s lives and problems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s