Her tale was a wrenching one. For parents of grown children, it rang terribly true--and terribly been there, done that, if not in exact detail in the overall dimensions. Writing in the New York TImes, Susan Engel described the travails of two of her children and how difficult it was to cope with the pain they were in--how she wanted to set things right, the way she had when they were small children. And in the midst of this parenting quandary, came words of advice: from one of her children and then from a close friend.
The son called to describe a crisis he was having with his graduate studies. As Engel reports on herself, "I started explaining how he should respond to the terrible graduate adviser. I wanted to ask if he was taking notes on my good advice. But I didn’t have a chance. He cut me off. “Mom,” he said, “when I tell you what’s wrong, I don’t want you to tell me how to fix it, and I don’t want you to tell me it’s not as bad as I think. I just want your sympathy.”
The second piece of worth-listening-to advice came from her closest friend. She described the heartbreak another son was experiencing with a long-time girlfriend and told her friend, "I don’t know whether to hope he works it out with her, or ends it.”
Her friends advice--and something I tell myself to remember: “Don’t hope for anything.”
Just another reminder that it's their life. We are no longer in control. Nor should we try to--or can we--assume the old mantle of hands-on care.