The Journey - How has your relationship with your adult children changed?
A Look at Aging
This is chapter 10 of a 16 chapter series, written by 16 hub authors. A new chapter will be published each weekday by another participating author through chapter 16. It will be linked to the other chapters at the bottom of each hub.
As we raised our children, my husband usually followed my lead. He did this primarily because, as a soldier, he was often gone from home for considerable periods of time. I was there every day. But there was one piece of advice he gave our children that I thought was particularly wise. "Don't make all the mistakes possible. I've already made most of them. Learn from me and save yourself a lot of trouble."
As good as that sounds, unfortunately, children don't grow into adults without making their own mistakes. It is very hard for parents to watch. But life is an education. Mistakes are how we all learn.
My question: As our children grow into adulthood, they face choices that once confronted us. As they become less dependent on us, our relationships somewhat change. What works best for you in helping them, and how has it affected your present relationships with your grown children?
Where my journey has taken me:
Even as they are mature and are no longer dependent on us for their lives, they will still be learning as we are and will look to us and others that are older for advice and guidance. The relationship between patents and their children change, but the roots are there, and if those are good roots then the “Children” will always look to you for your input even though they are adults and making their own lives. Sometimes, they will go off and initially not want your input, but as they learn more, they also learn that there is more to learn.
For me unfortunately I have 4 children yet only one who I spend time with. The other 3 are estranged from me and I have no contact with or say in their choices they are making, I am saddened by that. Yet I know if I had an opportunity to help them with some of their choices, it would be a blessing for us both. For myself growing up in a dis-functional family was more of a curse than a blessing. Most of my choices and decision on what direction I was taking in my teen and early adult life were made by myself. It was only when an angel stepped into my life at 15 years old that my life took a complete change for the better and my direction in life took on a much more promising course. It was a fork in my road that saved me.
I truly believe that a functional, loving and caring supportive family goes a long way in determining the quality choices their children will make and I am truly thankful for many of my friends who came from good families. It certainly helped mold their character and help them immensely with their career paths and of course beliefs and values. A solid relationship with your children is paramount to understanding each other’s strengths. From this all can build and seek to harmonize their lives.
Life would be much simpler if we, as parents, could distill all the insight derived from our life experiences and give it to our children like a preventive, and they, in turn, would accept it gratefully. Alas, life is not simple, and we can’t inoculate our progeny against making mistakes.
As small children, they think we’re invincible and look to us for guidance. Along come the teenage years, and they view us from a different, unflattering, perspective. If we’re lucky, they may perceive us as imbued with some intelligence by their mid-twenties. Life’s obstacles (of which we cautioned) may override their youthful chutzpah, rendering our counsel valuable.
Offering unsolicited advice to adult children is usually a waste of energy, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it! Setting a good example is the best way to guide our maturing offspring, just as it was when they were children. Once we reach that wonderful status of both parent and friend, they may become receptive to our suggestions. Then, again…maybe not.
Perhaps the best we can provide is positive encouragement.
I have always found honesty works best with my children. Even when they were young I tried to be honest about everything I was teaching them or sharing with them. As adults this honesty has repaid me well. My children value my opinion -- they may not always do what I think they should - but they value what I think.
They still come to me for advice and respect what they have been taught. We are all friends and have a wonderful time whenever we get together. During social gatherings I am like one of their friends and treated as an equal with joking and fun. When push comes to shove I am still their mother and they respect me and treat me that way.
It is always necessary to teach your children respect, how to treat others, and for me a love of God, but I believe the best thing you can do for your children, when they are young and when they are grown is be honest with them.
It is always gratifying when my twenty-three year old daughter calls me and asks for advice, usually about whether she should look for another apartment or renew her lease, or some minor financial matter. She is very independent, works a lot, and I am proud of her. She does some travels that make me shake my head, but that is caused by a long distance relationship. I'm sure the airlines love her.
Our relationship is still very close, I still worry, as I suppose every parent does, but I am ever so glad to be her dad.
We have three children and they are all from different planets. We have always tried to teach them to find their own way and to be as honest about life as possible....to others and themselves. I've had numerous long conversations with my sons as my wife has had with our daughter. Her being always, "Daddy’s little girl" makes it futile for me to delve into matters about females that I know little to nothing about.
She is a woman with three beautiful children of her own now. She picked a fine young man to marry and I am so proud that she is a good mother. We were always financially strapped when the kids were younger but we always found ways to enjoy being a family. A simple walk together along a beach or gathering in the living room to watch a movie left us all with precious memories.
We definitely advised our children and our advice was and still is that annoying little, "See...we were right" voice in their minds as they stumble through life. Our oldest son hates to admit we were right but in his many, many hindsight lessons....admits it occasionally. At 25 years old, he told me one day, "Dad....I think I understand women now." He didn't understand my uncontrollable laughter!
Our youngest son has just earned his associates degree and plans furthering his education to pursue a career in politics. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he becomes a senator or governor. I think we gave each child enough room to grow and tried always to use conversation instead of punishment. We tried to never let them go to bed with anger on their minds or worry in their hearts.
As our children became adults, in a way....we grew with them. You could say that we grew up together as a family. We, as parents had as many or even more lessons to learn as the little ones did. I loved them dearly when they were our cute little children. I love them beyond words now...because they have grown into wonderful human beings.
As a father of four sons, I certainly relate to this. I am now 76 years of age. If you have children, and I'm sure you wouldn't ask the question otherwise, you know your own experiences may vary from those of your children. In my case, my mother was a fairly strict disciplinarian and freely used corporal punishment including a strap. But, she and my dad were also very loving. I feel I was given considerable freedom to visit friends, come and go as I pleased, and to be involved in various activities. Yes, I faced many choices and didn't always choose the best ones. For example, I smoked cigarettes at a young age and snuck an alcoholic drink on occasion. Marijuana was not much of a factor in the 1940’s. Later in the early 50's, I drove cars and was quite reckless at times. I made some good choices as well.
Regardless of how much I willed differently, my sons also made some choices that were not the best. But, all four sons grew to be responsible and successful adults. Their desire to try their own wings made it very difficult for my wife and I to control, especially beyond the age of puberty. My views about corporal punishment evolved considerably between the first and fourth son. I used some corporal punishment with the older boys because I had been disciplined in that way myself and thought it was a proper tool. I don't believe I ever laid a hand on my youngest son though. He is now 48.
I have an excellent relationship with all four sons today. The oldest is now 56 and today a grandfather. In their growing up years, I spent much of my time with them, hiking, camping, Boy Scouts, Little League, foreign exchange program, and many others. We also had long talks (two way conversations) where everyone participated. We tried to have dinner together every night where days event were discussed. I firmly believe that the greatest gift one can give their children is their time. This is what has worked best for me and what has affected my present relationship.
I have learned to keep my own counsel unless asked for advice and believe me; this is easier said than done. There is a good reason the mother bird tosses the babies out of the nest when their wings are strong enough. The babies will discover they can fly on their own but they need to take the risk first and they need to do it on their own. What we would have done or would do in a certain situation is not necessarily the best course for our children. There are far too many variables in life for us to assume anything is constant. If we have raised them in their early years to think for themselves and problem-solve, they will do just fine. For many years, I have had to be a parent and not a friend. Now I can explore the friendship and that is the best reward I can imagine.
My children are now 14 and 16. My relationship changed most dramatically with my 16 year old daughter in the last year, and honestly, I was surprised to be surprised by that. I've found there are certainly few constants when it comes to the inputs of instruction that we make into their lives and the results that follow. It seems so unpredictable that when they do say or do something that we know originated from our lips, it catches us by surprise! I've tried hard to emphasize talking with them about the more resonant truths - a good heart, treating people kindly, watching out for the little guy - because those are the ones most likely to stick, and carry the greatest long-term value in their lives and mine. I feel the model that my own parents took as my brothers and I grew older - moving from the instructive parent to the thoughtful, non-judgmental adviser who provides perspective when asked, as being the most effective, appreciated version of adult parenting possible. The same I approach I intend to take.
Mine were snatched away at crucial times of their lives, - 17 and 15. A tragic situation in which my influence in their lives had cost being almost obliterated myself in an effort to protect them from being totally deprived of whatever influence I was permitted. It happened anyway. They were snatched under duress; I barely survived.
Yes, relationships changed. I hoped that those 17 and 15 years left enough residue of my influence. Then, all I could do was demonstrate my strong life-spirit and vigorous legacy for an example. The outcome was opposite of all I’d done and would have continued doing as long as possible, even at the price extracted which could have finished me off 40 years ago.
I’ve had influence with my daughter and her progeny; none on my son. Few questions could accurately address this situation; few answers I can give fit the one being asked. ‘It’s just complicated”. My great granddaughter, now 16, texts me for advice and my eldest granddaughter, her mom, comes to me for solace. That’s something incredibly precious; it’s LIFE, regenerating and still vigorously in effect. I’m blessed, as are they.
I’ve learned the hard way; my children don’t always want my version of the Cliff Notes on life. Any time I start a sentence with “Well, I think you should . . . “ I try to stop myself and consider whether or not they have asked for my advice. I try. I don’t always succeed.
It is hard not to try to give your adult children all the protection and benefit of your experience just as you did when they were growing up. Those parenting instincts do not fade over the years. It is difficult to accept that a sailboat is safe in a harbor, but that is not what sailboats are built for. The same thing goes for our children.
I’ve told all three of my children they now have my permission to look me in the eyes and say – respectfully – “Mom, you’re doing it again.” This is my signal to back off and let them find their own way.
It does not come naturally.
I learned a long time ago that I can lead a horse to water, but I cannot make it drink. I routinely share my life experiences with my sons and tell them what I have learned. I shared with them my victories and my defeats and the decisions and circumstances that brought them about. I began this practice when they were quite young and tapered things back a bit as they approached adulthood.
At the end of the day, people will do what they are compelled to do in spite of your efforts. All one can do is be open and honest, and then graciously allow them to choose their own path. If you have been consistent and sincere, there is a fairly good chance your children will choose to follow in your footsteps or through your instruction - avoid the pitfalls. As the good Book states, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not veer from the path.”
As my sons grow in age and maturity, I have loosened my grip accordingly and have encouraged them to make decisions based upon their education and training, such that, when they enter adulthood, they would feel more confident and independent. I still push and prod a little, when necessary, but the transition from childhood to adulthood has gone rather smoothly. I do not render unsolicited advice (as a rule) any longer, but am always willing and ready to field any questions my sons may have. They know they are always welcome at my fire, and so far, they continue to visit with me there.
I have been told, on more than one occasion, that I have a “dominant” personality. Our house was full of affection, laughter, encouragement, discipline, and love, but Dr. Spock would have been extremely disappointed, because I was not a “friend” to my children. I was an authority figure, often the disciplinarian. We did not operate like a democracy. As my three sons grew older that changed; they became more responsible and independent. I developed a more flexible and gentle personality. Being a friend replaced being a parent. We talk, we listen, we laugh, I recommend books, music, films. I almost never interject my opinion between husband and wife, father and child. If serious damage has occurred, or a significant problem is ignored, I speak to my sons privately. I will be direct, describe the problem, offer solutions. Afterward, I never remind them of my wise counsel; I will not pout, disapprove, or manipulate to achieve the outcome I believe best. After all, good friends don't do those things to each other. Friends are helpful, generous, kind, dependable, and hopeful, even when they strongly disagree with you. We have become very good friends.
I can tell my grandchildren that they need to focus on the positive side of life and seek what God has for them by way of plans for their lives and not follow the norm and settle into a faceless crowd that has no direction but only to survive.
Absolute independence and total responsibility for their own successes and failures is what I give to my own children.
I only offer praise and never criticism. I’ve released them to their own lives with no interference with their choices.
They fly under the strength of their own wings.
They receive only information and love from me – never guidance, for it may misdirect them.
By nature, we do indeed; long to escape the imposition of others upon our lives. We long to be the masters of our own destiny, to take charge of our lives and to incur the exhilaration of independence. Raising children is for most of us, a daily reminder that we shall never know as much as them and to our shame, that they have done so, in half the time allotted us. It has always proven difficult to give advice to those so endowed with so much knowledge. When parents speak advice a conduit opens between their children’s ears to facilitate the prompt excavation of useless information. Since they have employed such tactics, I’ve come to mind my own business and take delight in their inevitable fall. Whatever unsolicited advice I give, comes in the wake of clever questions meant to foster quite reconsideration, which I will then, pretend, is a great personal surprise. When it works I am delighted. When it doesn’t, I am still delighted. It serves them right.
As parents, even of adults, it is not easy to watch our children go through the process of learning to make their own choices - some good, some not so good - and live with the consequences. And it never seems to get any easier.
There is a great deal of wisdom in this hub. For those of you who are parents of adults, you may see yourself in some of these answers, or you may decide to take some of this wisdom and put it into practice with your own grown or growing children. For those of you who wish your own parents would follow some of this wisdom, please give them a little bit of a break. It doesn't get any easier being a parent just because your children become adults. In some respects, it is more challenging than ever.
Note on Hubbers in this collaborative effort:
The sixteen hubbers who participated in this unique series, The Journey: A Look at Aging, are all between the ages of 50 to 80. There were no set requirements in order to participate other than to speak from your own experience.
You can follow the links as the chapters in this series are being added day by day throughout the month of July. We will post one a day with the exception of Saturday and Sunday. We are looking forward to your comments. This endeavor was the first of its kind by a collaborative of hubbers. We hope it encourages more like it.
Join us at HubPages by going to http://hubpages.com/_2nckpc2qm2tl7/user/new/
In the immortal words of Crosby, Stills and Nash:
Revisit PREVIOUS Chapter
THE JOURNEY-CHAPTER 9 of16 asks:
“In life we meet various people. Some seem to have it all together, never sad, always happy. New things and challenges seem just another trophy. Ever feel, looking back, confused or missing a clue?"
Coming NEXT on JULY 17th
Follow THE JOURNEY to CHAPTER 11 of 16. Asks:
“If you could write a script that described your life, what was its driving force or the principle which gave you direction. Is it what you want to be remembered for?“
+ 16 answers on JULY 17!
To start from the beginning of "The Journey"
A Table of Contents ----- Hub authors
The Journey - Chapter 1 - Nellieanna
The Journey - Chapter 2 - Curiad
The Journey - Chapter 3 - Vincent
The Journey - Chapter 4 - Jaye
The Journey - Chapter 5 - tillsontitan
The Journey - Chapter 6 - xstatic
The Journey - Chapter 7- tom cornett
The Journey - Chapter 8 - Silvergenes
The Journey - Chapter 9 - kenneth avery
The Journey - Chapter 10 - Kathleen Cochran
The Journey - Chapter 11 - CJ Sledgehammer
The Journey - Chapter 12 - phdast ( Theresa )
The Journey - Chapter 13 - gerg
The Journey - Chapter 14 - sligobay
The Journey - Chapter 15 - Jackwms
The Journey - Chapter 16 - arb