Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Balancing the whole parenting adult children dilemma

Shannon over at Rocks In My Dryer is hosting a backwards edition of Works For Me Wednesday, which means we get to ask the questions. Mine has to do with parenting adult children. How do we know what is okay and what is too much?

This is a question I've struggled with since transitioning from just plain Mom to Mom of adult children, one of whom is now married.

I don't want to be the dreaded nosy-bossy-wicked mother-in-law but at the same time, I want to be there when they need/want me. I like to give gifts and am pretty accomplished at sniffing out great deals. But this is where the dilemma comes in: What is okay and what is too much?

Some of you may have already gone through this and can offer some sage advice.

Some of you are on the other end, and can share from the adult child perspective what you think.

ALL ideas and suggestions appreciated!


Krista said...

I am a young woman; married 2 years 9 months; no kids. I have one sibling--a sister two years older than I; she is married and they have no children.

We live in Chattanooga, TN, while my parents and sister & brother-in-law all live where I grew up, in Colorado Springs.

I love, love, love my parents. My parents, especially my mom, work hard to love and care for and direct me but remain 'back burner' parents. That they try so hard and show so much effort is the main thing! Communicate to your kids that you love them and respect their adulthood and independence while wanting to help them when they ask is vital. If offering help/advice, do so in a way that shows concern and care, NOT control and micromanagement!

(My mom reminded me to write the last of my wedding-gift thankyous about 6 months after my wedding. I needed the reminder and she reminded me so lovingly and graciously that it didn't sting at all.)

My MominLaw, J, is a really neat lady who loves the Lord very, very much. She and I had a tiny bit of a rough start but put renewed effort into actually making friends, and now we are. She also shows effort that she's trying to let her boy go (he's the firstborn and a son, and her 'special kid'--that kid that 'just gets you,' you know?) and that she's not numero uno in his life anymore. (I'll just bet that's a sword in your MomHearts...)

I also work hard to relax and trust her, that she's not trying to 'get her claws into' my man. (It's not a fight, right? What are we going to do, tear him in half??) So I try to let them have time together and regular phone conversations; try to lay off and trust them!

(I know, and my husband knows, and I'm sure she knows--that this 'love triangle' has so much potential for disaster; in 15 years we could be secretly eaten up by bitter hate of one another. I don't want that; he doesn't want that; and MominLaw doesn't want that either! So we pray and trust and make inroads and build bridges now to prevent an InLaw Disaster down the road.)

Whoa, long comment. (Sorry.)

*It's the effort to try to be a good mom/MominLaw that wins the day.
*The underlying heart and underlying effort is visible to adult children in ways that it wasn't visible to child children.
*Pray, pray, pray, and train your heart by the Word.

Jenni said...

First of all, gauge how much they like you. The less they like having you close to them, the less you should do. As the daughter of a mom that we want more at arms-length, I can tell you that much.

Ask outright how they feel about it. "Do you want me to call you if I see socks on a great sale, or would you rather just shop for them yourself?" It's not helpful if you save them a few cents but make them feel demeaned or just playing annoyed in the process.

Finally, I would say go all out in your desire to help on birthdays and holidays. Don't get anything they don't want - contributing to clutter is stressful - but pay attention to what they need and use the holiday as an excuse to give it to them. Dropping socks off at your child's house may be mothering, but sticking them in a stocking can make them just a festive, practical gift. I have really appreciated the times that my mom paid attention to my needs and interests during the holidays, because it made me feel special and taken care of without feeling like she was intruding on my self-sufficiency.

Oh, and save receipts and expressly invite them to exchange things if they want to. You don't want them to feel like you are in charge of what's in their house every time they look at their new microwave and think about how it's too big/small/complicated/wrong color.

Hope that helps!

jen said...

Listen. I don't mean listen to what you think they are saying, but listen to what they are really saying.

Offer to help, and be open to the "no" as well as the "yes."

Really the things that will make you a good mom to adult children or a good MIL are the things that will make any relationship good - mutual respect and honor.

Just my two cents, as the adult child.

We are THAT Family said...

I think balance is the key. As an adult child, I get along well with my parents and my inlaws. But the status quo shifts when everyone gets too opinionated. We all live our lives and have to deal with the consequences. Sometimes I think that's tough for parents. I'm finding out that just with my own kids. Btw, thanks for your hair care tips back at my site!

seven said...

Speaking as an adult child, I really appreciate when my parents help me out or give me gifts. As long as you make sure that they know you realize that they are capable of making their own decisions, and your advice or gifts are just to show your love, I think it's fine to offer help and advice.

Brightonwoman said...

Another adult child (and the first one out of the house and married...I married a divorce' and so have a child the age of my youngest sibling)...
I think not many people over 40 do the bloggy thing. :-)

*Give advice when it is asked for, but not when it is not.
*If you see or sense that they could really use some help/advice with something, offer it ("I have a suggestion which might help") but don't actually give it unless they say.
*Never drop by unannounced. I don't care how close they live. Ideally, live at LEAST 30 min apart.
*Remember that they are adults now. Treat them as you would a friend of your own age--you did your job in teaching them to be good people, and now it is up to them what they do with the teaching.
*Make offers of help (when applicable-take the grandkids so they can go out, bring over a frozen dinner when they are busy, loan money if needed)
*but don't patronize them (don't just give money, don't invite them for dinner every week unless you all want to, etc)
*for gifts, talk to them! Before birthday/Christmas shopping, ask if they have a wish list, and then make/buy for them according to whatever budget you are comfortable with. If you like to give gifts year round, consider sticking to other special occasions--their anniversary, Easter, Valentines, etc. There are lots of special days in the year!