Our adorable children. Sometimes it's hard to realize they're adults now. They may not be quite as cuddly as they were when they were three years old but more to the point, they probably don't want us hovering over them or offering advice.
Here are two tales that tell you what I'm talking about--plus bonus pointers for "what to do" if our adult children want to keep us at a distance.
Case One: Writing to Carolyn Hax, a parent is concerned that her college-age daughter doesn't want to answer the parent's texts, emails and phone calls--the daughter wants to determine when and where to communicate. The mom writes: I think we should talk to her and maintain contact even if it’s not the “right” kind; my spouse thinks we will make fewer errors of omission and none of commission if we stay silent and let our daughter take the lead.
To this question of giving a young adult space, Carolyn Hax had this to say:
Back off. A lot. For a bit. Treat this like it’s pre-telecom-revolution times and she’s studying abroad. Treat this like she needs it. Because she needs it — and has the spine to say so.
You can apply the 1980s treatment to your side, too, and communicate with her via snail mail. Assuming she has a mailbox, much less checks it.
Case Two: A mom, writing an essay in Better after 50 admitted to a deteriorating relationship with her grown daughter and then talked about how she righted the ship. Key excerpts:
This complaining about my adult daughter diminished when I started to view her for what she is in that order: ADULT then DAUGHTER. Once I changed my perspective to treat her as an adult first, my daughter second, our relationship became much less strained and tenuous.
Some lessons she learned along the way:
Do not give unsolicited advice.... If she does ask for advice, give it. If she doesn’t heed it and fails, keep your mouth shut.
Do not ask about partners: not new ones, old ones, potential ones. ... Let her offer as much information as she wants when she wants. You do NOT need to know everything about her dating life.
Do not whine if she decides to miss a holiday/family gathering/birthday party… Okay, no lie. This is a difficult one for me but I’ve learned the hard way not to guilt her into doing something she doesn’t want.
You do not need to hear from her every day. ...We compromised that I would be her ‘in case of emergency’ contact. Guess what: most days I do hear from her as she walks to the subway or gym.
photo: Maia Lemov