The impossible task of parenting young adults
I used to have a good grasp on parenting. From the time our three children were infants, through toddlerhood, the primary school years and even the dreaded teenage years, I used a fairly successful combination of expert-recommended techniques, mother’s intuition and common sense to raise our children.
But now that they are adults, I am dumbfounded.
No one ever told me that my job as a mother would become immensely more difficult once my offspring turned into adults. In the past few years, my husband and I have discovered that, although parenting individuals over the age of majority is absolutely essential to their safety and well-being, it seems frustratingly fruitless.
To complicate matters, the global pandemic brought young adults back to their parents’ homes for the foreseeable future. College students have been forced to take classes remotely, summer jobs have been canceled and hiring has been suspended. With 2 of our 3 adult children back at home, we can no longer take comfort in “out of sight, out of mind.” We face the daunting task of trying to enforce rules and standards of conduct for two financially dependent legal adults.
Put a screaming infant having a diaper blowout on my lap while strapped into coach seating between two grumpy businessmen on a turbulent nine-hour flight. Challenge me to negotiate the checkout line at the commissary with a premenstrual migraine, a cartload of groceries and a toddler having an epic tantrum over Goldfish crackers. Force me to give a lecture on why one should not wear booty shorts and a crop top to school to a smirking, gum-chewing teenager who won’t stop watching TikTok videos long enough to acknowledge me.
Pardon the pun, but that’s child’s play.
But present me with a resident 22-year-old — who wakes up at 1 p.m., eats all the deli meat, takes a 30-minute shower, packs a duffel full of bikinis and spiked seltzers, announces that she is taking Dad’s car to visit sorority friends in Vermont for a few days, and can someone please do the laundry while she’s gone because she’s completely out of bras? — and I’m paralyzed with fear.
When the clock struck midnight on each of their 18th birthdays, Hayden (25), Anna (22) and Lilly (19) passed that invisible threshold into adulthood and assumed legal control over their persons, actions and decisions, thus terminating our legal guardianship over them.
In other words, my husband and I no longer have the right to parent our own children.
And here’s the worst part: They know it.
Since our kids moved back home, we’ve discovered that our interests are not aligned. In fact, the only thing lined up together are our toothbrushes near the bathroom sink.
What they want:
1. Privacy 2. Independence 3. Food 4. Shelter 5. Unlimited use of a car full of gas 6. The latest iPhone 7. Insurance (auto, home/renters, medical, dental and phone in case it is dropped in a toilet or left in an Uber) 8. Bail money
What we want:
1. Respect 2. A little help around the house 3. A reasonable curfew 4. To reenact Prohibition 5. For someone to close the dang refrigerator door 6. A pair of scissors to cut that ridiculous beard 7. To administer an oath of celibacy 8. To have one, glorious, worry-free night’s sleep
Despite it all, my husband and I will continue our attempts to parent, guide and advise our three grown children, and hope that someday, they’ll understand why. Their status as legal adults may keep the king and queen of this castle in check. But our love as parents ensures that we’ll eventually win the game.