Tag Archives: Adult Children

Monday Morning Moment – Sins of the Fathers – Neglect and Abandonment – It Stops Here.

Photo Credit: William James, Heartlight

My older brother was 10 when he handed off our infant brother into my small arms in the backseat of the car, as Mom drove us away. 4 kids driving away from my biological father. I was five years old.

That father didn’t disappear from our lives just after the divorce. He already had, while still living in the house. Mom was the sole provider, and she hired babysitters for us because, although our father didn’t work, he also didn’t take responsibility for caring for us.

The three smaller of us kids have no memories really of those years. My older brother has since died, but I wish I had asked him about growing up with our dad. He never shared any positive memories in those years following that day of leaving. He actually shared no memories and he, at 10,  was old enough to have some.

The Father I Never Knew – On Father’s Day – Deb Mills

I have written about the topic of generational sin previously, but I wanted to return to this subject, maybe one last time (maybe not). The reality of sin passing through generations is sobering. When we have experienced harm, or at the very least, a lack of care from a parent or parents, we are at risk of repeating that exact same harm in our own children’s lives. As a parent myself, I want any generational sin to stop right here!

Engaging with Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1 of a 4-part Series – Adam Young Counseling

We don’t want to linger in the past, nor do we want to disparage a parent, especially one who has since died. “They did the best they could” is often what we say and hear. I’m not at all about blaming parents for ill treatment of their children, but I do think when we refuse to acknowledge the wrong or harm done to us, then we may find ourselves repeating those same patterns with our own children – patterns we learned too well ourselves growing up.

We can change the course of our lives…and that of our children…and it’s not just through distancing ourselves from parents who harmed us. Otherwise all we teach our children is how to disengage. We don’t give them the skillset to recognize harm and disarm the situation. When we feel the victim, we too often teach our children more what that looks like, rather than how to turn it around for our sake and theirs…and maybe even for our parent(s).

Monday Morning Moment – As Adults We Still Need to Feel Safe, Seen, Soothed, and Secure – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

The Sins of the Fathers Visited Upon The Children – S. Conway

When a Father Abandons a Child

In my family’s childhood home, neglect and abandonment happened even with both parents in the home. Mom was working; she had to work. Given that, she had no choice but to place us in the care of others. Somehow I felt a strong attachment to my Mom following those years (maybe even during those years living with our dad). I’m not sure if my brothers had the same experience, since their dad just wasn’t there for them. Was it harder for them because their same-sex parent wasn’t bonded to them?Photo Credit: Gabor Mate, dr_anniephd, Instagram

We are not left without help these days. Even on social media, we can find solid counsel (even when we can’t afford or feel awkward going to a counselor in person). Check out the full thread of Dr. Nicole LePera’s below (she posts helps every day).

Photo Credit: Dr. Nicole Lepera, Twitter (Thread)

Dr. Nicole Lepera Twitter Thread of November 15, 2022

Whether we experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment from our fathers, or our mothers…the impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. We can keep our distance from those sinful patterns as adults without necessarily sacrificing those relationships. That’s a whole other pattern we can guide our children in – that of understanding, humility, and forgiveness.

Photo Credit: James 4:17, Heartlight

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills

My father disappeared from our lives. The neglect and abandonment present in our preschool years became permanent. We would never know him…what his own growing up years were like…why he couldn’t seem to love us. We would never know. What spurs me on is the profound love of a great mom and a steadfast God. I know my siblings and I have experienced some sort of imprint from previous generations, but recognizing it is a huge step forward. We then can steer clear of its negative impact on us and our children.

If you experienced harm from a parent, you may not be able to do anything to change that situation, but you can be an instrument of change in your own life…and for the sake of your children.

Also, even with the gift of a deeply loving and bonded parent, like our Mom, don’t be surprised if she/he hasn’t endured trauma from their own childhood home. Be aware of that generational connection.

Understanding the possibility of intergenerational transfer of trauma is not to make victims of a future generation. Understanding allows us to recognize if we have vulnerability and to set in place healthy barriers against the impact of our parents’ trauma.

I actually don’t know what my father’s childhood was like. My mom grew up with an alcoholic father who vented his frustrations about life on his wife and children. Mom stood against his abuse of her own mother and brothers. Her fighter responses were tempered as an adult when she became a believer (follower of Christ). Still that quickness to take offense and wariness of mean-spiritedness were reactions she had to fight all her life. I see that also in myself. – Deb Mills

In The Lord of the Rings, there is a powerful scene of Gandalf standing between those in his care and a monstrous enemy. He called out to this evil creature: “You shall not pass!” When it looked as if he had victory over the beast, he turned his back away from him. This turned out to be disastrous (minute 1:50 into this scene below). There’s a lesson here that just ignoring trauma, even when it feels like we’ve put it behind us, won’t keep it from rearing up again. We are wise to be alert, aware, and prepared for its circling back around.

The Season of Small Ones – Mothering, God, & Gandalf – Deb Mills

Boundaries are talked about a lot these days. Forgiveness also… True forgiveness is actually its own boundary. It keeps our hearts tender and our minds free to take a better path in parenting and in relationships, in general. Like in Gandalf’s situation, we would be unwise to prematurely think we have conquered the evil of generational sin. That sin that may have been transferred to us, if not genetically then familially.

Not to despair. Being vigilant is wise in two areas: 1) guarding our hearts against bitterness and hatred toward our parents and 2) caring for and leading our children in the same ways. We have vast resources available to us these days, and we have a God who does not turn away from us as we seek to love as we are loved. No matter what kind of love we received (or receive) from our earthly parents.

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5b-6

Photo Credit: Dr. James Lamb, Heartlight

Finally, I want to leave you with this encouragement of steps you can take towards bringing an end to the “sins of the fathers” – at least detoxifying it for the rest of your life and future generations.  What would you add to this list? [Share in Comments.]

  • If you are willing, pray for the person who has harmed you. Not necessarily for them to change but for God to bless them. Weird, right? The winsomeness of this sort of prayer is the impact it has on our own your own care for that person. Our hearts are tendered when we pray.
  • Tell your story. All of it. To someone you can trust. Someone who will not just sympathize or take up an offense against that person but who truly cares for you and your own healing.
  • If abuse is part of your story, sort out boundaries without building walls. The walls not only keep that person out; they imprison us within. They also teach our children that walls are the way to go when harm happens…more prisons.
  • Recognize the sin in “the sins of the fathers”. You may already see a leaning toward it in your own life as an adult. Put safeguards (accountability) in your life to help you choose another path.
  • Seek understanding (you may need a counselor or that trusted friend above). For health and healing, don’t try to figure this out by yourself.
  • Remember the one who harmed you may have also been similarly harmed. The sins of his/her own fathers and grandfathers could be imprinted on his life and actions. Not justifying the behavior here but recognizing it might not have started with his relationship with you.
  • Resist blaming. We want to avoid living as a victim. This is definitely contagious for our children. The person who harmed you did wrong. Calling it sin is a start, then, rather than blaming, forgive. No small thing. When we blame, we carry the brunt of the sin with us into our adult life…with the pain we experienced as a 5 y/o, or 15 y/o. As an adult we can look at that pain with mature eyes. It was wrong, but blaming empowers the sin to continue hurting. We are grown now and don’t have to come under that hurt anymore.
  • Pursue peace, as much as you yourself can (Romans 12:18; Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 12:14-15. Reconciliation is extremely hard work. We resist it. That work of resisting, trying to ignore that person, carving out our lives away from that person, pretending it doesn’t matter – so much more exhausting and debilitating. Reconciliation requires at least two people, but it can start with one and hopefully the door stays open for future possibilities.
  • Don’t be deceived thinking you will not fall into the same hurtful pattern you experienced. We can pass that onto our children without even trying…hard warning here. It may look different but it is not gone without our determination to end it with us.
  • Acknowledge that more people are affected by this sin (for me, neglect and abandonment) than just you and your dad. What is your hope, your goal? If it is just to lessen your own pain (which matters), those who love you will join into the work of that…and its burden. What can you do to lessen that burden on yourself and those around you? [This is a big step forward.]
  • Increase your capacity for tolerating negative emotions. [See link below.] They do not have to disrupt your joy or destroy your peace. They are indicators for what’s going on under the surface. You don’t have to live in them. They are actually helpful in pointing to next steps.

Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance – Brad Hambrick

  • Do what you can to nurture the relationship. Don’t expect your father (or mother) will have the same skillset nor understanding that you have developed over time. Give grace.
  • When we give grace, we experience the bountiful good of it ourselves, and our children learn a huge life lesson that benefits them as well.
  • In the end, we seek to forgive. We can say we forgive but if we keep putting bricks in the walls between us and the one who harmed us, there is no fruit in that “forgiveness”. The fruit is not just for your father/mother, it’s for you and your children. Forgiving doesn’t let that one off the hook; really, it keeps that hurt from dominating our lives (or that of our children’s). Check out resource below on this.

If I Forgive, Doesn’t That Let Them Off the Hook? – Clare Bruce and David Reay

Photo Credit: Mark Groves, Facebook

Okay, I’ll close out now. Not a counselor but one who’s lived this and done a lot of work towards my own health and healing and hopefully it shows. Much love. Thanks for staying to the end.

Monday Morning Moment – In or Out – Your Choice, but You DO Choose – Deb Mills

Sins of the Father – Bible Verses

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad at His Passing – Grateful to God – This celebrates the dad who became my father later in life.

Fathers Who Give Hope – John Piper

Just Like Mother: How We Inherit Our Parents’ Traits and TragediesApril Dembosky

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Nostalgia, Parents & Adult Children, Welcome to Holland, Food Fit for Memory-Making, and Boundaries that Define Us

This week’s Friday Faves – GO!

1) Beyond the Guitar Nostalgia – How about all the feels from musical themes of favorite old movies? That’s what happens for us when Nathan arranges and performs themes from films we love.

While he takes a brief hiatus from his usual YouTube channel to focus on other work, only we Patreon subscribers get to hear the latest (subscribe). He is creating some new instructional content which makes me want to learn classical guitar. In this bit of time in the interim, I decided to highlight some of his arrangements already appreciated by 500k-plus YouTube subscribers. Enjoy. Oh, and comment below a favorite song of yours that he arranges/performs.

YouTube Video – The Last of the Mohicans: Promentory – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – How to Train Your Dragon – Romantic Flight (Classical Guitar Cover)

YouTube Video – Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka) – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – The Lion King Main Theme (“This Land”) on Guitar

YouTube Video – Amazing Grace Meets Classical Guitar (Epic Version) – this one Nathan did as a request from his mom and dad. So beautiful. Thanks again, Nae.

2) Parents & Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 excellent and empowering articles by author, counselor Dennis Rainey. If you want to parent adult children well, these articles have wise and applicable counsel for you. You adult children might enjoy them as well. The articles are linked below along with a couple of others that are also treasures.  https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2012-December-family-snapshot-014.jpg

Sometimes, we can be hard on our adult children. Too many demands or expectations.  I’m sure I’m not alone with bringing my own vision into the present of what our family would look like, all grown-up with little ones. To be honest, they can also be hard on us (without even realizing it). However, what’s more important? The people in these relationships! Full-stop. Our kids have their own sharp learning curves of life without pressure from mom and dad to bend in our direction. It’s enough to see them when we can and cheer them on in their own new life configurations. If they make choices we would not make…it doesn’t change the love. Remember they also deal with the choices we make.

Read the articles. You’ll be glad you did.

“Life is a pilgrimage of learning, a voyage of discovery, in which our mistaken views are corrected, our distorted notions adjusted, our shallow opinions deepened and some of our vast ignorances diminished.”John Stott

3) Welcome to Holland – This goes out to you who are parents, siblings, extended family or friends of children/adults with special needs or medical complexities. A friend introduced me this week to   “Welcome to Holland”, a beautiful essay by Emily Perl Kingsley. My friend has a medically complex child, and so did I.

“Did” only because he is grown now. When he was little, he had major struggles and still has some of the aftermath of those struggles and always will.

When Dan came home to us through adoption, we knew he would have his challenges, but you’re never prepared for the twists and turns of that through childhood and into adulthood. With all the trips to doctors and therapists, meetings with teachers, and one-on-one times with him as the topic, there was still his joy that kept us marveling at this wonder.

He was an incredibly exuberant kid and seemed far less bothered by his struggles than we were.

A friend, years ago, asked us, regarding Dan, “What’s it like to have a ticker tape parade thrown for you, every time he sees you?”

It was something very special.

So…welcome to Holland.

Welcome To Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

Copyright©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. 

All rights reserved. 

Reprinted by permission of the author.

 

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It’s like this……

 

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.  The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It’s all very exciting.

 

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

 

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!  I’m supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

 

But there’s been a change in the flight plan.  They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

 

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It’s just a different place.

 

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

 

It’s just a different place.  It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

Pin on WindmillsPhoto Credit: Pinterest

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”  

 

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

 

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

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Love you, Dan.

4) Food Fit for Memory-Making – Writing for the last two weeks has been on the back burner. We’ve been traveling, seeing friends, and enjoying great food as part of those experiences. Now that we’re back home, eating to live more than living to eat will have to be restored to the daily.

However, can I just celebrate great food for a moment. The images below take us back, just the last two weeks, to food shared with friends in beautiful spaces. An anniversary was celebrated and Dave got his Butterfinger Blizzard – a twice-a-year indulgence which never disappoints.

My mom’s cooking has settled deep in my memories since she’s been in Heaven for 20 years now. Nothing like her biscuits and gravy, Thanksgiving dinners, and vegetable soup and cornbread. Sweet memories of her and the food she prepared. Memories imprinted by food shared together.

The memories we’ve made recently, accompanied by food, will suffice for now. Bon appétit .

Shyndigz – a local desserterie. Their fresh fruit cake has always been my favorite UNTIL they’ve recently introduced a Tres Leches cake. Once a month it will tempt me for sure…so amazingly good!

5) Boundaries that Define Us – All my adult life, I have struggled with (and been known by) being fuzzy-boundaried. Easy-going, fairly amicable, not very demanding. Then recently, on more than one occasion, friends have asked me about my preferences and desires in life. What do you like to do? What do you want to accomplish these days? How do you fill your day? What are your goals? Hopes? Dreams?

I stuttered…trying to answer. It seems much of my life has been spent bending toward helping, serving, pleasing others…That is NOT a bad thing, but to not be able to come up with answers to the above questions really got me puzzling about my own self-awareness.

Henry Cloud Quote: "That is why success and fruitfulness depend as much ...Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, Dr. Henry Cloud

Presently I’m reading a book that may very well help me get to those answers. It is Dr. Henry Cloud‘s Changes That Heal. His chapter on Boundaries has me stopped in my tracks.

“Boundaries, in a broad sense, are lines or things that mark a limit, or border. In a psychological sense, boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others. This sense of separateness forms the basis of personal identity. It says what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we do not want. Boundaries, in short, define us.”

Being a fuzzy-boundaried sort, I’m not really sure about some of these things, but now I’m on a mission of determining who I am and who I’m not. This may seem a strange venture for someone as old as I am. Hear me out.

Dr. Cloud talks about the various boundaries that make up our identity: physical appearance/body; attitudes; feelings; behavior; thoughts; abilities; desires; choices; limits; and, lastly, negative assertions (who/what we are NOT).

If we don’t know these things about ourselves, then we are bound to bump into, step over, or be drawn into the boundaries of others.

Here’s an example of this: I AM a reconciler, and I AM NOT a grudge-holder. So when my extended family is struggling with a family rift, it’s somewhat confusing for me, and really hard personally. How boundaries come to play in this is that I can’t make this rift go away…my own limits, attitudes, feelings, and desires (among other things) keep me from crossing others’ boundaries…This leaves me feeling hopeless, and sometimes helpless. My alternatives (and they are good ones) are to love my family, encourage those also reeling from this, and praying for all of us.

I can NOT fix it. If my fuzzy-boundaried self insisted on somehow making things better, it would leave me worse for the wear…and the rift still unchanged. We all have boundaries at play in our relationships.

In fact, some boundaries we set up voluntarily by our attitudes and thoughts. When we feel harmed by someone, we impose boundaries to prevent getting hurt again. Are these actual or imagined? It seems the pain continues in the trauma of unforgiveness. I just don’t know. One thing I do know is that this sort of boundary is something I AM NOT willing to do…especially with family. Where does that leave us who disagree on this?

So…forgive all verbal processing on this. Just trying to figure some of this out, and I’m only beginning. Unless you know yourself well, Dr. Cloud’s lesson on boundaries might be an excellent one to consider. One very beautiful extra thought on this: although we are made in God’s image, this is one place we differ from Him. He is infinite, and we are finite. As we get to know ourselves better, we can appreciate Him all the more and depend on Him even more readily for what we need both inside and outside our boundaries.

[This same Dr. Cloud also wrote Necessary Endings and Boundaries.]

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That’s all for this week. Any comments or thoughts you have, please share below. Blessings on you and thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Road to Wholeness Podcast – Redeeming Heartache

How Do You Move Through Past Trauma? – Interview with Jerry Sittser – Podcast – Adam Young Counseling

Photo Credit: Laugh It’s Free Facebook page

Books on my Summer Reading List

Your Home Affects Your Longevity – Here’s How the Longest-Living People Outfit Their Spaces – Erica Sloan

Monday Morning Moment – Living Between Adult Kids and Older Parents

God put us in families. All of us.

God put me in the middle of boys with a mom who loved us completely and a father of whom I have little memory. His relationship with us was not one of outright abuse but neglect and eventual abandonment. When I was five, my exhausted mom divorced this never-working man. She  would later explain that action as simply “just one less mouth to feed”. She soon after came back to faith in Christ and brought us with her (unchurched until then). Our dad had long since disappeared from our lives.

Fast forward to the present: married to a man who deeply loves the Lord and loves us well also. We have three adult children and two added by marriage, and now four precious grandchildren.

All our parents (including a beloved step-dad) are gone except for Dave’s exquisite praying mom.

Sandwiched between adult kids and older parents is where we are, and I’m grateful. In fact, I think about our kids and their littles (and some of you) now in this same season, just a different generation. 

The room is delightfully crowded (not without challenge) with multiple generations – each bringing extended families of their own. So many faces and so many voices.

Every family member (and each of us in that family) has great value to God. His desire for us is to bear  the fruit of His love (Galatians 5:22-23) – making it beautifully tangible to others. He is with us in this.

What if our parents made life hard for us either by trauma or, as adults, by intrusion or neglect? Or what if we find ourselves in awkward places in our adult children’s lives? These “what if’s” make us want to pull ourselves out of obedience to God, as we feel justified by our pain to distance ourselves from some in our family. The ripple effect of pulling away is wide-reaching in a family. Wider than we can imagine.

Even when relationships are healthy, the heavy responsibility of parenting young children puts its strain on our precious adult children. We feel the pull – torn between kiddos and our olders or others (sibling families, too). We also model for next generations what family looks like. How we handle the hard is quite probably how they will handle the hard.

We all choose, consciously or not, from among four ways to engage with or disengage from our families.

  1. Embrace. We can trust God with the families He has given us. We can love them well. We forgive and seek forgiveness. We spend time with each other and attune to how God sees them. We who share adult space try to find the balance of loving each other well without our own preferences getting in the way. The older ones will only be with us for a moment. They have stories and history and lives that matter. Our younger ones also grow up and have their own families and life pressures. We extend ourselves in both directions – up and down.
  2. Debase/Disgrace. Sometimes members of our family wrong us or another beloved family member. We “triangle” talking about them with others, without them being present. Their behavior may warrant our disdain. We are tempted to debase them privately or disgrace them publicly. However, God is not finished with them or they wouldn’t still be here. Wisdom is to take our sorrows to God and appeal for Him to help us love these hard-to-love ones. He is able. It helps to remember we may also be the ones not so easy to love. [I forget that sometimes.]
  3. Replace. We are tempted to completely replace hard family members with friends. Adult friendships are such a gift from God. They fill in empty places in our hearts. They can actually help empower us to love and live like Jesus with these family members. Or they can usurp their place in our lives. Friends, help bolster our resolve, as we choose to “stay in the room” with family members. Let’s be that one who is not going anywhere – that picture of Christ for these.
  4. Give Grace. This is similar to “Embrace” but with God-guided boundaries in place. The Word is full of instruction, like Colossians 3:12-14. Living between olders and youngers, I want to be that one who gives grace both ways. Speaking love often and always. Not judging or applying pressure. We can choose to honor one another, which, in turn, honors God. Giving grace includes giving grace to ourselves.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Gods Armour

 Do I get this wrong? All the time. We are works in progress. God’s door of healing is always open to us.

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, Bent Lily (w/ permission)

[One last pic – my mom, our youngest son, and me sandwiched between them & behind the camera – wishing I could roll back the years to when she was still here. Embrace & give grace. The years rush by.]

Monday Morning Moment – a Tender Take on Controlling Women

Photo Credit: PickPik

We’re not talking controlling men today or men controlling women, in particular. Today, we are looking at our own leanings toward being controlling women. Ever charting the course toward our own “happy endings” or that of our children.

None of us ever start out taking control because we see it as the best course. We often stumble on controlling. We could even be oblivious to the possibility that we are. If we are awakened to that reality, we can justify it. Figuring we love too much, or we’re loved not enough, or there appears no other recourse but to control our situation.

I married later in life and had the blessing of three children. Being a wife and mom (especially the mom part) did not come naturally to me, even though I myself had an amazing mom. Maybe it was coming into parenthood as a 30-something. It was an intense experience, and I was often riddled with guilt about getting it wrong. The kids all turned out well, I think, but the journey there was broken up by stumbles and starts.

Adult children are a wonderful thing. They take care of themselves (or someone else does, for the most part, right?). They make you proud and sometimes bring you grandchildren. I find myself wanting to draw them in…reel them back home to family dinners or beach vacations or long talks on “life aspirations”.*  Is it because I am needy? Or just miss the people who grew up from tiny tots to independent grownups, in what feels like an unguarded instant.

*[It is NOT controlling when parents and children want these sorts of things but logistics are hard to work out, and you take on that work for a mutually desired end. It IS controlling, when we pressure, manipulate, or guilt our families into something they would rather not do.]

Photo Credit: Piqsels (check out all the moms/children images)

Just this week, I saw this video on adjusting to our children growing up. It is a piece by Australian writer Mia Freedman. It is a gushing, tear-jerking essay, but it sums up how we might, as mums, grasp for control…without meaning to. Sigh…

Here it is (4 minutes. Go ahead and watch it):

“Babies and toddlers and boys…will grow up and grow away and break up with their mothers. Slowly. But surely. Because they need to. And if they do – when they do – it means we got it right. We parented them right. Whether you have sons or daughters, our role as parents is ultimately to make ourselves redundant and while I don’t know what it’s like to be the parent of an adult woman, I know what it’s like to stumble as my son became a man. There are so many bat crazy things about being a parent and one that definitely wasn’t in the brochure is the way you don’t actually parent one person, you parent many, many different people who are all your child.

There’s the newborn, the baby, the toddler, the pre-schooler, the primary aged kid, the pre-teen, the adolescent, the full-blown teen, the young adult and then the adult. They all answer to the same name. They all call you Mum. And you never ever notice the inflection point where one of those people turns into the next.

You never get to properly say goodbye to all the little people who grow up because you don’t notice the growing, the changing. Except when Facebook sends you those bloody memory reminders that invariably make me cry because it’s like showing me the face of someone I can never see again. Not in that way. Not at that age.” – Mia Freedman

She went on to say, in the piece above, how handy and interesting grown children are and how proud we will be of them. How blessed she is to have had those children, acknowledging how not all women have children or don’t get to see them grown. She marveled that she actually “grew one of my best friends in the world, one of the best men I know, in my own body.”

Writer Shannon Popkin has given us a first book entitled Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. It’s such a great book on what controlling does to us and our families…what a burden it actually is. All the stories are taken from the lives of Old Testament (from Eve to Moses’ sister Miriam. So much wisdom here.Photo Credit: Shannon Popkin

In each story, we revisit familiar stories of wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters…and what control issues they struggled with. This week, I read the chapter on Rachel’s life…Rachel, the wife of Jacob and the mother of Joseph. Jacob’s family would be the foundation for the nation of Israel. If Rachel knew a “happy ending” was coming, she might not have anguished so about her ability to have children. After a season of barrenness, she had Joseph, the man who would save Israel from years of famine. Right after his birth, she longed out loud for more children. She would die in childbirth, delivering her second son, Benjamin. I wonder if the joy of having her firstborn was diminished in the longing for another.

We struggle in our relationships, longing for something more. Something not yet now. Something reminiscent of what we once had. We take the reins of our relationships into our own hands and try to steer them toward the happy ending of our own choosing.

It’s a lot of work. Exhausting for us and those in the harness of our own desires.

“God wired us to long for meaningful, lasting family relationships. It’s why we care so deeply and tug so insistently on the people we love. But when our tug becomes a yank, and our request becomes a demand, rather than drawing everyone in, we drive them away.” Shannon Popkin

What do we do with controlling in our own lives or that we experience from other women? I have a few ideas (borne out of my own experience, God’s Word, the wise counsel of other women, including the author Shannon Popkin):

  • Refuse to think ill of that controlling woman. The control may very well be borne out of a heart of love…just taken too far. If you’re the controlling woman, then give yourself grace, as you pull in and examine your own heart and motives.
  • Stop self-referencing – thinking it’s about you. If you are beginning to see that controlling can rip relationships apart, then lay down your own agenda. Walk in your spouse’s/adult children’s shoes a bit. We may think that what we want is what’s best for everyone, and it could be, on the surface…but it won’t matter if the “making it happen” drives a wedge between us all.
  • Don’t get caught in the web of comparing your own marriage or family with someone else’s. There are always going to be other spouses and parents who are more gifted, cooler, maybe even more loving, and more capable. That’s a good thing, when we stop comparing. We want the best for our children. We can be thankful they have all sorts of great people in their lives. Let it go. Maybe we can serve them in ways that speak to how they feel loved…without our own agenda coming into play…or wondering if it’s good enough. Nope, not going there. Nope, not doing it.
  • Release the fear of what could happen if our adult children make their own path to a happy ending. This is a place for prayer and for trusting that they are in good hands, as are we. We raised them. It’s done. Celebrate that, loving them with wide open, unselfish hearts…praying for them, releasing them (and our fears) to God.
  • Tuck our story into the larger one. Shannon Popkin talks about how we author our lives like a “chunky board book”. We (and our spouses/children) are the characters. We, the wives/moms, could even be the heroine. The book has bright and engaging illustrations, and it ends just right, with all the “happy” possible in those sturdy pages. What if we trusted our lives, and that of our family’s, into the hands of a greater Author. One who is writing a story across the ages…and ours is tucked into it. When I’m in my right mind, and not trying to configure a scenario where my family is all mine, then I can see the glory of that greater story. And live the life God has given me today.

Letting the lesser story go…today. This could be what I give up for Lent…the whole control thing. Maybe it will stick. I sure hope so.

YouTube Video – Otherhood – Official Trailer  (Netflix, Rated R – haven’t seen the movie. The trailer points to a film which speaks to this topic from a secular point of view – Rated R)

YouTube Video – War Room – Official Trailer – Rated PG – I have seen this film and loved it.

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Star Wars, Christmas Music, Adult Children, Christmas Happenings, and the Perks of Walking

Happy Weekend! Well, I should ask how was your weekend as Friday Faves posts on the Monday after. These Fridays come so fast! Anyway, if you have a minute, there’s a lot of Friday joy here for your Monday.

1) Star Wars Classical Guitar – We are Star Wars geeks around here. This movie franchise is part of our Christmas tradition through the years, going together to see the latest film coming out. Those of you who, like me, are fans of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar, may remember his holiday mashup A Star Wars Christmas.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Of course, if you are Star Wars fans, you have probably already listened to Beyond the Guitar’s library of various themes. So much sweet nostalgia.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Thanks to Disney+, we have a Star Wars space western that we can stream between the big screen escapades. The Mandalorian. If you love Star Wars, you will love it. Here is Nathan’s rendition of the main theme:

2) Christmas Music – It’s been our jam since October, and still need more time to savor it all. From the ridiculous to the rapturous. Love most all of it. How about you? Do you have favorites to share? In Comments, please.

December is full of way too many music events to take them all in. Community sing-alongs of The Messiah, King College styled Lessons and Carols performances, spontaneous Christmas pageants, just to name a few. One of our family’s annual traditions is the VCU Holiday Gala. This Friday night, one of our littles also joined us. A next generation joy.

On a larger scale, the Christmas band for King & Country performs an amazing Little Drummer Boy. A drumming feast for the senses!

3) Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 very different but thought-provoking articles that were meaningful to me and you may also find them to be so for you (the adult children or you parents of same).

  • Alison Wright‘s The Death of the Family Gathering – We’re in a season when extended family gatherings only happen over a funeral or wedding. My birth family never did reunions but they always looked so fun. We would, from time to time, gather at grandparents at the same time, but it was never planned. Wright’s article touched my heart. Then a great-niece wrote a beautiful Facebook post about the same article… We work to make family dinners happen once a month and a family vacation each year. Worth the battle with busy schedules.
  • Deb Wolf‘s How to Love Your Adult Children Really Well is pure wisdom and worth your read. https://countingmyblessings.com/love-your-adult-children/
  • Daniel Kurt‘s Long-term Care Insurance – Is It the Right Move for My Aging Parents? This may seem an odd post for a Friday Fave, but for ever how much time long-term care insurance is still around, it is definitely a consideration for us to give ourselves and our adult children…or invest in a family compound of some sort where everyone cares for everyone else. Either way, it’s a chunk of change, but worth it.

4) Christmas Happenings – Beyond the Christmas music events, so much goes on in the month of December around here. Henrico Christmas Mother is a charitable venture that helps needy families, the elderly and the disabled of our county. I only minimally volunteer for this, but it is an incredible experience to see how people and organizations come together to help those less advantaged have a happy Christmas.

In Richmond, we have the Tacky Light Tour which makes driving around the city at night a shimmering, and sometimes silly, wonder.

Gatherings with friends and family or nights at home when overwhelmed or just needing a quiet place…all part of Christmas.

Then…then there are the platters, boxes, small bags full of Christmas cookies – made with love, shared.Photo Credit (last pic): Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

5) The Perks of Walking – So after all the Christmas cookies, I’ll close with this helpful piece on the perks of walking. We all know the perks actually, but we’ll be doing more walking come the New Year, for sure.

6 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Walk Every Day

Have a great week! I have to tell you that sometime during the night I woke with the wonderful realization that we are still over 2 weeks away from Christmas. I went to bed thinking it was just 10 days away. When trying to squeeze all the glorious goodness of this special time of year, the days fairly fly. It was a pre-dawn gift to know that…there is still time.

Bonuses:

Team of Retired Navy Seals Are Saving Teenagers From Human Trafficking – Mark Pygas

Zipper Mergers Are a Target for Road Rage, but They’re the Ones Doing It Right, VDOT Says – Joann Kimberlin

Do You Take Hours to Make Simple Decisions? You May Have FOBO (Fear of Better Options)

The Problem with “Hey Guys” – Joe Pinsker

What Makes You “Multicultural” Stacey Fitzsimmons, Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Salma Raheem, Andre Pekerti, C. Lakshman

Open Letter to Our Young Adult Sons and to Their Moms

Blog - Mother & Adult Sons - quotesgramPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

When we were first becoming serious, my husband Dave answered his aunt’s question about a girlfriend and that’s how his mom found out we were dating. He would have told her, but she didn’t ask…not because she wasn’t interested…but maybe because that is the pattern we develop as moms of adult sons…

This past weekend I had the great joy of being with a large gathering of extended family. My place in that gathering was the aunt who has lived far away all their lives (at least, the young adults, for sure). I am only in town a few days, and maybe, we get one visit. It’s Q & A with Aunt Debbie – catching up, fairly non-threatening (I’m hoping), and it’s only for a few minutes with each one…so minimal and limited discomfort.

As I checked in with each of these young adult nephews, their moms were in the background in conversations of their own. When the question I asked (usually related to work/future) drew a response of new information to their moms, a maternal radar flipped on, and in the middle of their own conversations, these precious moms zeroed in on their sons. “What? When did you decide that?” When this happened with more than one nephew, it led to a sort of fascinating “aha!” moment – “No, it’s not just your mom who does that. All us moms do that sort of thing. We are just interested in our sons’ lives.”

Days later, this dance between moms and our adult sons has stayed on my mind. I’m still figuring out the steps myself, but thanks to other moms wiser and more experienced, I have grown in this area. So…if I had your sweet face in front of me right now, cherished sons and devoted moms, this is what I would say to you:

Young men…you are a marvel. Especially to your moms.* We believe we know you better than you know yourself. Forgive us for that… it comes from loving you across every day of your life…including the days you weren’t even easy to like. The closeness we have felt to you over the years isn’t an easy thing to let go. Somehow we missed the cues as you grew up that you were actually learning what we taught you – to manage your life, to make strong relationships, to become independent, to go after your dreams. We spoke into those things as you grew…and now you’re grown. Forgive us when we nudge our way into your life…we don’t really want to control as much as we want to be a part. You’re doing fine…and even when you’re not, we know from our own experience, that helping you too much isn’t helping. You know that yourself, in your heart. It may be why you hold us at arm’s length…when we press in.

Just be gentle with us…your moms. We don’t really mean to be intrusive. We’re just trying to figure out the balance ourselves. What’s too much? What’s not enough? It keeps us up at night sometimes. Can you believe that? Yes…you probably can. Anyway, we will try not to ask so many questions, and we’ll try not to give unasked advice…but you know we’re going to fail at that. So call occasionally before we have to hunt you down… Be your familiar self at home with us sometimes (we miss that old normal). Share your successes with us, so our hopes can crowd out our fears. Your mama loves you…she just misses you sometimes…even if you’re still living at home. This next stage of your life…this newly grown-up stage is both exhilarating and strange for her…She will figure out her place in it…as you give her grace to do so. Stepping on toes is part of the learning, so thanks for your gentleness and your strong arm of support.Blog - Mothers & Adult Sons - goodnewsnetworkPhoto Credit: Good News Network

Moms of adult sons…I’m one of you. Doesn’t it feel like it’s always our fault…about something or other? Well, for a few minutes, let’s leave off blaming…ourselves, our sons, or anyone else in the equation. Right now, I wish we were having coffee around the same table and talking together about what we’ve discovered of this new life – this new relationship between our grown-up sons and us.Blog - Mothers and Adult Sons - sagaPhoto Credit: Saga

Here’s what I’m learning and what has been helpful counsel from others:

  • Give space and keep space. I don’t understand it, but it does seem like our sons need a bit of breathing room. There is so much change in their own lives, they need to process it themselves. If they choose not to do that with us, we must give them the space to do it with someone else (best friend, Dad, girlfriend/wife). Don’t pull away when that happens (which might be our temptation). Keep space in our lives for these sons of ours. Whether through a card, a text/quick phone call, an occasional invitation for dinner. If you’re like me, you long for those regular family dinners like we see on the TV show Blue Bloods…but a quick burger out can also be a joyful experience…if we let it be.Blog - Mothers of Adult Sons - huffingtonpost - BLue BloodsPhoto Credit: Huffington Post
  • Helping and enabling may look similar but are not. I will be brief here because there is tons online about this. Related to our adult sons, we can help them (as they can, us) without it being a toxic or enabling situation. Do we treat our sons more like neighbors and friends or more like those little boys they once were? We have to examine our own hearts on this one. When it comes to our adult sons, do we love them in ways that free them to love others? Do we invest in them such that they actually are able to get farther down the road in life or the investment tightens their dependence on us? Puzzle this out as I do the same.
  • Communicate in our adult sons’ heart language. This came as a shock to me as our sons grew up, because I thought we communicated fairly well through the years. Unfortunately, I discovered that while they were in our home, it was Mom who too often set the tone and topic of our conversations. Now I am learning (still a beginner here) to follow our sons’ leads on conversations… I may still choose a topic but I don’t push it to its limit with them, as once was the case. Hopefully, this makes sense, and hopefully they have seen me grow in this area. How about you, Moms? Would love to hear (in comments) what your experience is in this language/conversation arena.
  • Keep our sense of humor. As these sons of ours are growing up, we are growing older. They are not us…their choices and life aspirations may surprise us, but they are still works in progress. Our lives are, as well. We have not arrived. When our values or decisions clash, moms tend to either get mad or hurt…neither bode well in our relationships with our sons. We must learn how to take our emotions by the neck and wrestle them to the floor… proactively. Some song lyrics come to mind as I think about this – also these lyrics reflect the advice received from wise moms in my life. “Get over it“, “Let it go“, and tell yourself, “I will survive” and “Tell your heart to beat again.” [Sidebar: I don’t even like the song “Let It Go” from the Disney film Frozen, but it’s advice that I’ve frequently received from mom friends].

So…that’s all I have today. Anything you’re willing to add to the conversation? It’s still somewhat of a forest for me…picking my way through…with you.

And, you sons of ours-  we love you. Not as well, maybe, as we had hoped…but if we all keep at it, we may find even our relationships will get sweeter as life goes on. I’m hoping, anyway. Believing.

Blog - Mothers and Adult Sons - quotesgramPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

*This open letter may only speak to some, so if this is not helpful or doesn’t address your situation, I don’t mean to offend or presume. Parenting and being parented can be immensely satisfying and, at the same time, greatly complicated. If I can encourage, that is my goal…having the answers has to come from someone wiser than me.

YouTube Video – I Will Survive – scene from the film The Replacements

Parenting Adult Children by Todd Carey

When Helping Hurts – Are You an Enabling Parent? by Allison Bottke

When Is It OK to Be a Helicopter Parent? by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

Relationships Between Mothers and Adult Sons by Susan Adcox

The 6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Your Adult Child by Linda Bernstein

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You ForeverPhoto Credit: Amazon.com