I started to make a list of tools to use to find the road to a healthy relationship with my grown children--Notes to Self. The first iteration ran to things like, keep your mouth shut, walk on eggshells, wait to be asked for advice. And then it struck me, those were rules for keeping the peace and not much more. They reminded me of a Dorothy Parker poem, The Lady’s Reward.
Parker starts off with some genteel advice to a woman who, presumably, hopes to land her man:
Lady, lady, never start
Conversation toward your heart;
Keep your pretty words serene;
Never murmur what you mean.
Dorothy goes along in that vein for several verses until she unleashes her killer ending:
“And if that makes you happy, kid,
You'll be the first it ever did.”
(see full text here [http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/4970/)
Dorothy tapped into the vulnerability of one of the partners in a relationship, and it seems to me that a similar vulnerability lies at the core of the maturing relationship between us, the seasoned (and aging) parents, and our adult children who are in their prime and making their independent way in the world. So how do we have a lively intercourse with our children without intruding on their space?
I started rethinking what to put in Notes to Self [see left hand column], a list that will grow with time, experience and new insights. I'm not there yet, but here, with a bit of borrowing from Dorothy Parker, is where I hope I'm not.
Moms, Pops--always give
Your advice on how to live.
Be sure to ask if who they’re dating
Is the one that they’ll be mating.
Let them know how much the parent knows
About the cut of hair and clothes.
And you should surely question why
They want that bigger piece of pie.
Always, always be intent
On whether they can pay their rent.
Be sure to pierce through bluster-bluff
To suggest that they're not good enough.
If their behavior doesn’t fit the bill
Threaten to cut them out of your will.
And any giftie that you bring
Should always come with a little string.
It will always be a service
To bring up that which makes them nervous.
And if this brings closeness to your kid,
You’ll be the first it ever did.