Our kids are leaving home, pursuing further education and careers, getting married, having our grandbabies, buying homes, and generally living life quite happily without our round-the-clock helicopter parenting. We’ve known from the little guy’s first day that this time would come, but we still aren’t prepared. We’re not ready.
We’re not ready to miss them so much. We’re not ready to “Stop worrying, Mom.” We’re especially not ready to stop parenting.
But parenting an adult, with a wife, two children, and a dog, is vastly different than parenting a young child. One of the most profound changes comes in the way we communicate with our grown progeny. It’s difficult to remember that we are no longer raising them. We don’t get to pass judgment on their behavior, nor can we criticize their priorities or decisions (unless our aim is to sever all ties, in which case, tell them everything you’re thinking). As hard as it is, we must now treat them as adults. This often requires some serious tongue-biting, lest we blurt out something too, well…parental.
1. “You’re doing that wrong.” Especially when he hasn’t asked you for help. And never say this while there are other people in the room. Now you just called him idiot in public.
2. Any sentence that starts with “If you want my advice…” If you have to ask, he doesn’t.
3. “I’m disappointed in you.” Often the parenting bat of choice for couples with young children, who’ll usually do anything to regain Mom and Dad’s approval. An adult child is more likely to reply “Back atcha.”
4. “Your wife needs to…” You need to Stop. Talking. Never, ever criticize your son’s wife, in any discussion. He loves her, and now she is the most important woman in his life. If you draw a line in the sand, guess who wins.
5. “When I’m dead, you’ll wish you spent more time with me.” Maybe, maybe not. Maybe he’s not coming over because you say stupid crap like that.
6. “You wouldn’t be so broke if you didn’t buy so much expensive stuff. Do you really need a 60″ TV?” Unless you paid for it, it’s NOYB, as in “None of Your Business.” If he’s spending beyond his means, life will find a way to let him know. In the meantime, he won’t have to shoot the messenger. Yes, that would be you.
7. “I can’t believe what you kids pay for your phones. When we were little, all we had was a dial-up phone with a party line. And we were grateful to have it.” Remember how you felt when your mom and dad told you these stories? Yeah, that.
8. “You’ve been married for two years. When can we expect the pitter-patter of little feet?” Sorry, but this is also NOYB. The decision to have a child is limited to the two participants only. If you’re good, you’ll be notified at the appropriate time.
9. “Well, you can’t be too hard up if you’re going to that expensive gym every day.” Unless they’re asking you for money, limit all commentary about their finances to “I’m sure you’ll figure something out.” All other options will inevitably lead to future whining from you about “why my kids never tell me anything.”
10. “Have you gained weight?” Just because he came out of your woo-hoo, doesn’t mean you automatically have the right to forever comment on his appearance. It’s no less rude than if he walked into your house and said, “Hi, Mom. Wow, have you put on some weight?”
12. “You don’t call often enough.” Enough for whom?
13. Upon entering his messy house, “How can you live like this??” (usually followed by a loud sigh and an immediate impulse to start cleaning). It’s not your house. How someone chooses to live in their own home is NOYB. If you can’t stand it, meet at your house.
14. “Well, don’t expect me to pay for that.” Did he ask you to pay for it? Or are you just inferring that any discussion of money means he’s got his hand out?
15. “You need a haircut.” He’s 30, with a wife and two kids. He gets to wear his hair any damn way he pleases. (And if he truly needs a haircut, his wife will make sure he gets one.)
16. “Are you two saving any money?” Their marital finances are off limits. (Unless, of course, they’re living with you and saving money to someday move out, in which case, you should be getting a weekly cash flow report.) But keep in mind that they’re probably saving as much as you did at 25. Yeah, pretty much zero. They’ll figure it out. Just like you did.
17. “How’s your sex life?” The only thing worse than being asked to tell you about his, is you responding with information about yours. And whether he’s 5 or 50, no child ever wants to hear that Mom and Dad are now doing, or have ever done, the freaky.
18. “Your father is being a jackass. Can I come stay with you two for a while?” They might say yes, but you’ve got to know that when they hang up the phone, they’re screaming “NOOOOOO!” Save your relationship with your son and DIL, and work out your marriage in a hotel.
And the universally recognized, Mac Daddy statement, guaranteed to strike terror in young married couples around the globe:
20. “I saw the house next door was for sale, so I put in an offer!” ‘Nuf said.