SAVE YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN BY PLANNING WHAT YOU WON’T DO FOR THEM
By Paying Attention To What You Are Not Willing To Do For Your Adult Children You Are Protecting Your Own Needs. You Are Also Protecting Your Children By Not Hindering Them From Being Truly Adult And Living Their Own Lives.
This is What I Don’t Plan on Doing
I don’t plan on rescuing my adult children if they screw up. They’re adults and by now my work should be done. That doesn’t mean I will ever stop parenting. It just means I have to know when to keep my mouth shut and let them figure it out for themselves. Naturally, this is hard because I’ve always wanted to be the best parent I could be, and I’m pleased to say I’m not a coddler or a helicopter parent. I will continue to have a key role (hopefully) in their lives and try not to do things that prevent them from truly growing up. I want them to respect me, and for me to respect myself.
There are things I will not do for them because it’s best for both of us. For example, I will not cover their debts, nor loan them money without a repayment plan in place. They should be fiscally responsible, but if not, it’s even more reason they need to solve this problem themselves. That said, I’m happy to help financially when it’s on my terms.
I will not make them feel guilty about not visiting me. I do demand a certain level of regular contact; however, I recognize how busy they are in their own lives (which is a good thing) and guilt does not result in happy visits. I want them to want to spend time with me.
I will not tell them how to raise their children, as tempting as that might be. I was such a good mom, right? Child rearing can be so subjective, so personal and so affected by the current trends. Ultimately, every parent should have confidence in their own decisions, therefore I won’t intervene unless asked for my opinion. Although I really hope they ask because I’ll have a lot to say!
I won’t tell them how to run their lives. I won’t ask them too many questions.…well, I can’t promise this, but I will try to edit myself, so I don’t seem too intrusive (note to self: this has happened in the past – tread softly). I won’t try to fix their mistakes or give advice (I can’t truly promise this either!).
I will not remind them to reach out to family members because it won’t feel genuine if it wasn’t their idea. It is up to them to develop empathy and take action to express it. They know by now, thanks to my superb parenting, to be sure to thank people for gifts in a timely manner.
I don’t plan on storing their stuff indefinitely. Some stuff, for a while, is acceptable but I want my space back. Where I live, in San Francisco, space is at a premium so I’m a bit selfish about it. I also don’t want the responsibility for their possessions; when I was in college I left my passport at my parents’ house, never to be seen again. For my part, I can promise I won’t leave them a big mess to clean up when I die. I will try to stay on top of my own possessions, purging occasionally. Having cleaned out my parents’ houses after they died, I realized what a herculean task it is for someone else to make decisions about stuff you felt you couldn’t part with or didn’t even remember you had. Honestly, what do you do with ten sets of placemats?
I do not plan on keeping my children in the dark about my finances so that they won’t have to investigate while they are grieving. When my father died, I watched my stepmother struggle to make sense of their estate. I vowed I would get my own finances in order and communicate what my adult children need to know. Not telling them every dollar I have in the bank, mind you, but where to go to find information.
Likewise, I do not plan on oversharing about my health. Thankfully, there is nothing to tell them now, but I expect that could change later. I will let them know what is important but spare them too many details. I’ll save that for my friends!
This Is What I Do Plan on Doing
I will be sensitive to their state of mind when asking for information. When they were young and came home from school, they were not eager to answer my questions about their day. I discovered I’d get better results by being patient and reading their moods. Sometimes they were inclined to share while we were driving, or sometimes at bedtime. Letting them take their time to open up paid off for me. In fact, the same principle applies beyond my adult children to most people.
I will be supportive of my adult children’s plans and refrain from being critical as much as possible. I will ask questions without judgment, although I expect my point of view will be made clear regardless. I will try to see the big picture, take the long view, and remember not everything comes to fruition (good or bad). I plan on keeping their difficulties in perspective so that I don’t worry about circumstances I have no control over. Everything is a learning experience apparently. I will be thrilled with their successes, and since I know that they are not extensions of myself, I will share my excitement with friends and family without claiming credit.
I plan on paying attention when they tell me things about their lives, remembering details so I don’t embarrass myself by asking about them a second time. I will also keep my children up to date on important events in my life, but not overburden them with too many details. It’s a balancing act, to know how much they want to hear and how much I feel like sharing.
I do plan on being the mom they want to talk to, whether they need to work through a decision, or simply to catch up. I do plan on being the mom they are proud of, and actually like. I hope I can live up to my own plans!