Parenting is tough and even when they are adults, we parents want to tell our kids to “Watch out!” when a waterfall is ahead or a big stumbling block we see with flashing neon signs. Be it job or romantic partners, we feel the need to warn our children of trouble in front of them.
The problem is that this rarely works. Did it work for you when your parents tried to tell you–a fully grown person–to not move or not marry? Nope. If you keep flashing warning signs; keep bringing up the choice they shouldn’t make, you run the risk of distracting your child from seeing for themselves the trouble ahead.
I can’t stress this enough–Don’t be such a noisy nuisance, that your child’s attention is drawn away from the realities of the choice he’s about to make. If you keep insisting that this is the wrong person to marry, your kid can so focus on arguing with you that she doesn’t notice the problems in her relationship.
It’s very, very difficult to sit by and watch, saying nothing as your child comes closer and closer to a rough consequence. This is pain at it’s max. From the time they were born, you’ve watched over your children. You’ve kept them from running into the street. You’ve sat up nights monitoring their temperature. You’ve gone without to provide for them.
Backing off is one of the hardest things you’ll do. But you must. You must allow this beloved child to step forward into life and screw up. There are 2 realities in play here. First, you want your child to know you believe in his capacity. That you know he’s got what he needs. Second, no lesson is as powerful as the one you experience first hand.
This is true love. Keeping your mouth shut when it’s not your business…and an adult child has a right to live her own life. Even though you love her, the life choices she makes is still not your business. I know this is heart-wrenching and it’s so difficult that many parents would rather have an open breach than stay in relationship and watch the child make a horrible choice.
But if you believe in him, you won’t distract him from his life. You sit quietly and be his personal cheering squad. You tell him he can make it. You be his assistant as long as your own life isn’t compromised. Don’t sacrifice yourself to the point that he looks back at the situation with guilt.
Still, love him. Stay involved. Be emotionally supportive. My husband and I moved our daughters a total of 22 times–though a bad relationship, a bad marriage/divorce and lots of grad school. We moved one daughter from Texas to Brooklyn. Leaving her there–alone in that big, big city–was one of the hardest things we done. (Never mind that she was a fully-grown woman with a medical degree.)
This is love–support without distraction. I certainly haven’t done it right all the time. No one does.