Many years ago, 18 to be exact, I wrote and published my first book—The Mother’s Book of Well-Being—a book for new moms. If the book were a newborn in 2003, this year it would be a legal adult. This feels fitting as I celebrate Mother’s Day with my adult children today who are still in college but making their way in the world.
We raise children to fly, but this too is a transition, and not one that happens in a single flight.
If I were to write the same kind of book for moms of adult children, I would talk about the faith and trust required to open your arms when they leave and again when they return. Because our kids don’t leave just once. And when they come back, sometimes they give us a glimpse of the big world they’re living in—the romances and challenges with roommates. The lack of, or advances in consistent sleep and healthy diets. The new ideas and politics that sometimes contradict our own. And myriad interests that seem to change with semesters.
When they’re small and under your roof, you almost don’t see the growth because you’re too close. When they’re large and no longer under your roof, you can’t help but see. I think every mother wants their adult children to land in a good relationship, in a career that matters to them, to be happy, independent, and thriving.
But just like us, they’re always arriving. They’re always learning and becoming. There might not be a day when the trumpets sound and these children land in an adult life that assures us.
I have been thinking instead about what I needed most when I was that age. I wanted the comfort of a home where people believed in me, regardless of what I was doing or not doing. This sort of love assures that you belong and are accepted no matter what.
As parents, we expect a lot of our children and I want to pause when I feel those expectations coming up. I’d like to trust this instead: my kids will find their way. It will not be my way. It will be their way.
I can hold that faith and trust for them.
I know in my own life, especially in young adulthood, at times I doubted myself and made bewildering choices. I made sound choices too.
Maybe this is my only job now: listening, supporting, trusting, and loving them. I’m not sure I could tell them anything that they haven’t heard me say 16,000 times.
For mothers of adult children, I want to say hang in there. This is a different kind of parenting. May our children want to come back and remain close to us even after they fly away. May we see them, trust them, and love them for who they are and who they are becoming. May we give them what they need, and when we feel their absence, give ourselves what we need. Godspeed to us all.
Lisa is a writer and creator of the course Figuring Out What’s Next. If you find yourself in transition, including the transition of parenting adult children, this course was written for you.