Or, When Your Adult Children Live at Home
By: Jana Greene
Let me sing for you” the song of my people”.
It goes a little like this: “ &@#*&!#@!!!!
(Chorus: &*@!%!, #%*!@)**!!!))
A few days ago, I had a huge blow-up argument with my (nearly 20-year-old) daughter about something that was not a big deal to her, but was a really big deal to me. The thing that made me the angriest was that I felt it should be a big deal to her, too.
She and I are very close. We “get” each other. But nobody reaches The Point of no Return faster than she and I. Like (and I really hate to make this analogy) two poodles yapping at one another through a glass door. Not seriously out to do damage, but competing for the loudest yip, the most audacious showing of teeth. We can take it from 0 to 60 in seconds, feeding off of one another’s tone of voice, pushing the buttons on the customized panel of emotions in record speed.
As Chef Emeril says – BAM!
Sometimes, I yell at my kids.
Sometimes, I say curse words.
Sometimes, I use curse words while yelling at my kids, but not often.
I’m a follower of Christ. I am supposed to know better. And I do.
I’m not proud of either the cursing or the yelling. As a matter of fact, I’m ashamed. I am asking God to help me in the times that my tongue is swifter (if not mightier) than the sword; the times when my words become the rudder for my ship of thoughts before I can tell which way the wind is blowing.
I have to give it to Christ constantly, my itchy trigger-tounge.
In days of yore, kids generally moved out at 18, at just about the time you reached the end of your proverbial “rope”. I always kind of simultaneously dreaded and looked forward to “18” for that reason. I had preconceptions about that magical age.
Now, more adult children are living at home than ever. You hear a lot about the effect on the kids – not so much on the hapless parents who dearly love them but are ready to enjoy the fruits of what they’d long ago decided was ‘successful parenting’.
In my particular parenting fantasy, the children would move away to college at 18 (on scholarship, of course) but come home frequently to visit. While they are living apart from us in a learning environment, I imagine their activities being scholarly in nature… you know:
- Studying so hard that they regularly shut down the library (I like to picture them using old Encyclopedia Britannicas and a card catalogue. Hey, it’s my fantasy!)
- Leading peaceful youth rallies for conservative reform (again…its my fantasy)
- volunteering in soup kitchens in their free time (or some other completely unselfish pursuit)
But they didn’t move out. These beloved girls of mine are now almost 17, 19 and 20. And their undertakings are not all scholarly in nature.
I know I am the mother, and that my adult daughter is still the child, and that those parameters are a constant; they never change. But they do morph as kids grow up. And because I’m the mother, there is a pushing away on her part.
In a climate in which five adults live together, there is bound to be conflict. I’m learning to accept that reality. I’m learning that my fantasies of parenting college-aged children are not rooted in much reality at all. I just want my kids to be happy and successful, whatever that might be to them.
The good news is that the “trigger tongue” gets a little less itchy each time I ask God to help me with it and that forgiveness reigns supreme, in relation to God’s grace and between my daughter and I.
Long after I am flogging myself with the torches still hot from the last argument, she has forgotten the whole poodle-esque drama.
The wonderful thing about our relationship is that she and I feel the same urgency with forgiving one another as we do in escalating the fight. We want to make things right, because LOVE is the greatest of all four-letter-words.
So then comes the true “song of my people”. It mostly goes like this:
I didn’t mean what I said.
I love you.
(Chorus: you drive me CRAZY, but I love you still!)
BAM! Right in the soul.