Grown children in their 20s are a parenting challenge--not as challenging as adolescents. But still, they can be prickly and difficult. We think they're adults and they are, but they are stil going through stages of emotional growth and change. It may be hard for us to remember what was running around in our heads when we were their age.
I was reminded of this in a post on Nathan Bradford's blog. Bradford is a former book agent whose blog is about getting your book written and published (if you're in that category, check out his blog: it's excellent.] He's also a young man who just reached his 30s and in one of his posts, he wrote about his reaction to two movies--when he saw them in his early 20s and then when he saw them when he turned was 30. And that's where he layed it all out--the change in the workings of the maturing mind.
The movies in question were "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset." Here's his description of those movies: "In the first, "Before Sunrise," ... two early-twenty-somethings [Jesse) and Celine] meet on the train from Budapest to Vienna. Jesse has one night before his plane leaves back for America and he convinces Celine to spend the night with him wandering around Vienna, where they talk about life, love, dreams, everything. "Before Sunset,"...picks up after [an] intervening nine years. Now in their thirties, Jesse and Celine walk around Paris before Jesse has to fly back to the US, and this time they're dealing with the weight of real adulthood and exude a palpable sense of nostalgia and regret."
In the first movie, Bradford writes that the two characters capture the magical feeling of the rush of falling in love and of being with someone who excites you. The second is about testing the strength of that brief connection.
And here are Bradford's insights into his own maturing:
"The first time I watched these movies... I was in my early twenties and still in the exciting early days of a relationship. Of the two movies I naturally identified most strongly with "Before Sunrise."...I was roughly the same age as the characters, the world seemed full of endless possibilities, and my future was so excitingly uncertain.
At the time, "Before Sunset" struck me as poignant but also incredibly, almost needlessly sad. The characters were stressed and intense and (SPOILER) stuck in loveless relationships and thinking about what might have been if things had just unfolded differently on the platform six months after they first met.
But now, at age 31, I re-watched the movies at a vastly different place in my life and it was like watching completely different movies.
Now "Before Sunrise" was an exercise in nostalgia, remembering how intense conversations felt at that age, the sense of adventure, and the brave early twenties naivety of thinking life will be completely easy because we are the special ones, at long last, that truly get how the world really works.
And now it's "Before Sunset" that I identify with the most, not least of which because it turns out, like Jesse, that this year I was having a novel come out at the same time that I was starting a new life with some of the same weighty thoughts of what might have been. ...
That intense melancholy of "Before Sunset" that I once found almost maudlin is something I now see all around me in my peers. It's the quarter-life crisis of reaching a certain point in your life just by doing the right thing and hitting the right benchmarks of college, first job, dating, marriage, before inevitably being beset by forces outside of your control. There's a sense of wandering and uncertainty that sets in when you begin to face the weight of major decisions and choosing the right relationship (or not) or sensing you're in the wrong career.
Your early twenties are the time when you think you have everything figured out; at some point before the end of that decade you realize that you don't."
What Bradford has to say is, for me, an important guidepost for parenting grown children--in that it reminds me of what it is like to be that age, and how we, as parents, would do well to factor that into the way we deal with our grown and still-growing children.