Holli Grimaldi Flores: Parenting is a forever thing
Special to The Union
When I first had children, I was under the false impression my job would only last 18 years.
I heard it all of the time. I only had to “last” 18 years and I did — only to find out that was a big fat lie!
I seriously believed once they were all out and on their own, my job would be done!
It took me a while to catch on, but I now fully understand that the parenting thing is forever.
Some things obviously do change.
I stopped worrying about them every minute of the day.
Once they moved away, I did not wonder what they were having for dinner or who they were with or what time they got home.
I stopped thinking about making sure they were up on time to get to class or if they packed a lunch.
I tried not to think about who they might be riding in a car with and whether that person was a) a good driver and b) sober.
I began to assume they were living with a good sense of right and wrong and getting by on their own good judgment.
For the most part they have done just that.
Recently, my 25-year-old came to visit with his long-time girlfriend.
He has essentially been living on his own since moving away to attend college in 2008.
That did not stop my Mommy mode from kicking in the second he graced my doorway — and in a way I could barely control.
I wanted to immediately feed him and take him shopping for new clothes.
I wanted to know what he was doing at pretty much every moment of the day.
It took quite a bit of self-control to keep from doing any of those things.
I had to let him make his own decisions, accept those decisions and I learned to sit back and listen and simply enjoy our time together.
I did my best not to coddle too much, but I did occasionally take his hand while we walked and hugged him often.
I can see he is a capable, independent, kind young man.
Our youngest boy — now 21 — has returned to the fold and I do not have any trouble letting him just be.
He gets himself to work, lives on his own schedule, contributes to the household.
I don’t think twice.
However, as my 21-year-old daughter has recently returned home to visit for a couple of months — thrilled as I am — I am finding it incredibly difficult not to fall into the same Mommy habits.
She has not only lived on the other side of the planet for over two years; she was actually responsible for the life and safety of other humans for the majority of her time away.
She did an exceptional job as nanny — a full-time job — and on her days off, went on to become the first-choice babysitter for many other families in a small town in Western Australia.
During her time away from home, she spent a month traveling around Thailand with friends one spring and in Bali for a month last winter.
When her visa expired and it was time to say goodbye to Australia, she managed to navigate her way around Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark before returning to the United States.
Clearly she is a capable, independent young woman.
I don’t know why I believe that is only true when she is not with me!
She got home just a week ago and I have not been nearly as committed to letting her exercise her adulthood as I was with her brothers.
I find myself falling back into many of our old mother/daughter dynamics.
I seem to constantly be saying things like, “Be careful,” “When will you be home?” “Who are you with?” “How are you getting there?” “Where are you staying?”
She is the one coddling me.
I firmly believe that although she appears to be listening while I talk, she is actually texting messages to her brother that are somewhere along the lines of “Oh Dear God, she is driving me crazy!”
But I can’t be with her enough.
Being the parent of adult children is challenging in a new and different way.
They are adults, after all.
They only want our help when they want our help.
Standing by as they make their own choices and learn their own life lessons is tough.
Trying to find the balance between supportive and enabling is even tougher.
I am working on letting go, cutting the cord, all of those clichés.
I will be there as long as they need me and eventually, I will need them.
This parenting thing — it is forever!
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at email@example.com.
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