Mom kissing adult daughter's forhead

As our kids age, our relationship with them enters a new phase. They’re growing up, perhaps moving out, and their need for us is taking on a different shape.  Here’s how a shift in perspective can help us grow our relationships with our adult children. 

When I was a ‘young married’, years before I would even think about having children, a work colleague shared an article she thought I would enjoy.

Because she and I haven’t been in touch for decades now, I’m sure she’d be surprised to learn that not only do I remember she passed it along, but a single thought from that piece on motherhood has stuck with me for almost 30 years.

PARENTING WISDOM THAT ENDURES

What is it about casual conversations, random pieces of writing, or chance encounters that cement ideas in our mental vaults? What makes a memory stick has been an ongoing curiosity of mine, particularly as it relates to motherhood.

Since the day each of my three children were born, I wanted to remember every single thing about every single stage:

How my hand splayed across their newborn back, practically covering it. All those special ‘firsts’—foods, teeth, words, steps, a lost tooth. The way they howled in betrayal when I subjected them to that first haircut (oh, the humanity!).

The sting of personal betrayal when I caught them in a first lie. The manner in which I learned it was time for my oldest to start wearing deodorant.

The swelling of pride for every A, when they came to faith, for improving their personal best on a grueling cross country run. Graduation.

How, once they departed for college, just seeing their favorite snacks while grocery shopping might bring tears, since there was no longer a need to buy them.

And, pretty much everything else you’re thinking about right now.

It’s easy to understand how major life events or milestones might have staying power, but what is it about an everyday occurrence, thought, or idea that causes it to take up mental residence, especially for the ones, which at the time, weren’t really all that spectacular?

When you consider, according to a recent study, that humans, on average have 6,200 thoughts a day, how could we possibly predict what we’ll remember next week or tomorrow, let alone 10 or 20 years later?

I wish I could credit the author or cite the publication for that long ago exchange with my friend, but I can’t. At the time, reading about motherhood wasn’t relevant to me, regardless of how lovely the writing may have been. I certainly didn’t anticipate I’d be writing about it 30 years later.

So, what is the big idea I remember—the thought I barely noticed at the time but has since followed me like a dutiful puppy as I’ve watched my children grow up, and then out?

Eventually, your hope for more time on this earth will be less about you simply living to old age and more about seeing your children grow and flourish as they become who they’re destined to be.

I know that each and every moment is purposed by a good God who loves my children more than I ever could.

This truth is echoed throughout Psalms 139 in profound praises like “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).

TREASURING THE GIFT OF TIME WITH GROWN KIDS

I long for more days so I can see my children tick off each milestone God has in store, become adults, settle into careers, and have children of their own one day. It’s not that I’m living through or even for them, but I’ve found something unexpectedly special about watching their stories unfold.

Observing the lives of my children is like reading a book I’m wholly invested in and find utterly compelling. I’m eager to turn each page and to dive into each chapter. Some chapters are full of joy and wonder.

Others are painful to get through. Cliffhanger chapters bring me to my knees. And, honestly, maybe regrettably, some I’ve almost slept through.

I’m thankful to know each and every part has been authored by my trustworthy God.

When you’re a mom to grown children, those who’ve reached their college years and beyond, you better understand life as a gift; reaching this stage has no guarantee. I lost my own mother to cancer when I was just nine, and perhaps this is why I’m so thankful to get to know my children as young adults, why I don’t take a moment for granted.

I don’t purport to have all the answers (don’t believe anyone who does!), but I am an empty nester with three young adult children pursuing somewhat divergent paths. They’re becoming the sort of humans I prayed from the womb they’d become; not perfect, but that was never the goal, anyway.

I’ve learned a little along this journey of parenthood, and it is my earnest hope and prayer to encourage you as you approach this sweet season. You’ll find that parenting never stops, it just changes. Even older kids still need us to be their parents, but it is magical when they also become friends.

And when they come home for Christmas and come down with Covid the next day, you’ll find that even big kids like being babied sometimes—and that taking care of them is, and always has been, the greatest gift.

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him” (Psalm 127:3, NLT).

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3 comments
  1. My two kids are home from college now for the summer–what might be our last summer together as a nuclear family. I’m trying to soak it all in, just like those summers we spent together when they were little. Learning to mother young adults is harder–and more rewarding–than I ever thought it would be. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Exactly what I needed today!

  2. I thought my prayers were fervent when my children were tiny, but nothing compares to that throwing-everything-before-God prayer that happens when it’s hands off, but heart still all in!

  3. All o f this more true than you can ever imagine…i lost my precious best friend, my daughter, at the age of 30…leaving behind two very young children…we subsequently lost her daughter 3 yrs later…time is so deceptive…in these busy days it slips by relentlessly…i treasure every conversation I had with her on the phone…every moment we spent in the hospital with her…every note she wrote me….wish i had had “more time” with her…I treasure the time I now get to spend with her son (we get him in the summer!)…he is now 12..and the “time” is slipping away so very quickly…I also have an adult son who I cherish the time we get to spend together but he lives 650 miles away…so thankful for technology that we can stay in touch at the hit of a button!

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