I often add kids into my stories, and I guess it’s because in spite of the fact that mine are all grown now, there are still issues. I use these issues all the time in relationships in my books. I weave in situations that we’ve gone through before that they may not even remember, but have left a mark on me.
It’s not true, that rumor floating around that empty nesting is a real thing. They never leave home, not really. Not that I mind, quite the contrary, I love having them around. Except when those pesky issues pop up and remind me how human we are, how prone to hurt and offense; how weak and insensitive we can be when expressing ourselves to those that really matter.
My two daughters and their babies
It’s so easy, isn’t it, to enjoy those fleeting partnerships we run across in life, be it peer groups or social clubs or Bible studies or church attendees or professional colleagues. We can chat and talk about surface things, smile and laugh, and enjoy ourselves, then leave. Poof. Light, airy, effortless, most of the time. We pretend that we are really close with these people; have deep relationships with them, but we don’t. Deep applies to the family relationships that grow and change over years, decades, lifetimes. These relationships take gut level honesty, a crap-ton of prayer, an ability to forgive, a desire to stop resentment in its tracks, and take a stand. To know, intimately, that the relationship will change and grow, and this is messy and often results in a breach if not managed in love and kindness.
But what I want to know is…how much is too much?
When is it time to stop offering sage wisdom and parental advice?
When is it time to stop offering love and counsel as only a parent can?
Is it ever time to stop wanting to protect? To help a grown kid avoid a pothole so big and so wide that it could have ripple effects over his or her entire life?
Me with two of my kids and my husband at my book launch party in February!
My son and his kids
I’m struggling with these questions right now. My parents were the hands-off variety. Not much meaningful interaction whatsoever… but they were great in the arena of financial support, and their marriage lasted (which is wonderful) but as far as relationship…including much- needed instruction about things like right and wrong….pretty much non-existent. I heard over and over, “you’ll figure it out.” Um, no. I didn’t. Until I’d gone through so many emotionally muddy situations that I finally joined a group that helped me understand my weirdness. My interesting reactions to situations. My crazy fear that something awful was going to happen. These kinds of filters mess us up on many levels.
So, due to this background, I suppose; I’m willing to risk rejection from my grown children in order for them to have information that is an option to choices they make that I feel could be damaging. I’m very big on prevention. But, I’ve found, over time, that this is intrusive and counter-productive to our relationship. I think the cut-off is about 35 for instruction and direction. After that, it appears a parent is just being judgmental. Selfish. Prideful. Many other adjectives that have been batted around that I won’t mention. (Parents of grown-ups, do I see you nodding your heads out there? Thought so.)
So how much is too much?
When is it ever time to stop caring, stop investing, stop growing in relationship, stop doing life together? There are often differences of opinions and lifestyles and politics, ad infinitum. When one or both parties stop listening and start accusing, it’s often a slide into a place from which there is no turning back. Lines are drawn. Teeth are bared. Stubbornness drives a stake in the sand. This is when deep…gets hard. This is when decisions must be made…our own way? Or love? Being right? Or learning from each other’s differences and personality quirks and moving on?
So how much is too little?
How much is too little caring, too little loving, too little mentoring? How much is too little relating to each other, too little kindness, too little gentleness, too little believing the best of each other? Is there a beautiful middle ground where offenses and insults and resentments can be thrown off? Where healing and reconciliation take the place of stubborness and pride?
I think there is.
I’m not sure where, but it’s there somewhere. I’m determined to find it.