As summer draws to a close and fall approaches, our family finds itself going through a lot of changes. My oldest son, a recent graduate, is looking for a job and facing student loan payments. My middle son, a junior in college, has a new apartment off campus, a part-time job, and a car both of which come with more adult responsibilities. And my youngest, who just returned to school the other day, is living in a suite with five other boys and has a full course load, a girlfriend, and an internship at the school literary magazine. My husband and I are once again contemplating our empty nest, but 2014 is no longer an adjustment/transition year. This September we have a good sense of what it feels like to be a couple once again, only this time with adult children.
Why is this important enough to blog about? Because what our family is experiencing is universal but sometimes, when everyone is struggling and suffering at once, it feels very isolating. Writing about our daily dilemmas is one way to share what’s working for us and what isn’t. Putting words to feelings makes them more manageable and often, as you write it down, what was initially a hopeless tangle of emotions suddenly unravels itself and a path to a better place emerges. Here’s the thing-when the kids were little it was our job to teach them all sorts of things, from how to tie their shoes to good table manners to knowing how to admit when they were wrong no matter how hard it was. Now that they are young adults our job actually becomes much harder because we have to trust that we gave them the skills to handle almost any situation that arises and we have to be willing to step back and let them succeed or fail on their own merit. That is really difficult to do, but in fact, saying the words “You can do this” or “You’ll figure it out” is the best gift you can give both your son or daughter and yourself. Gradually letting go means that you believe in them and in your parenting. Here are three ways I’ve used writing to help myself during this period of constant change.
Send a card
In this day and age sending something with a stamp may sound hopelessly old-fashioned but I’ve noticed that, when the going gets tough, a funny or encouraging card will still bring a smile to my sophisticated boys’ faces. Use the blank space to tell them how proud of them and the choices they’ve made so far and that you know they have the strength and intelligence and compassion to get through anything life hands them. Don’t forget to remind them you’re always there if they need to talk!
Keep a journal
This is where you’re allowed to write down all the things you want to do but know you shouldn’t. Vent all you want and then move on! Use a daily journal to refocus all the energy you used to expend on the kids on yourself and your goals. Amazingly, once you ease up on the twenty-something’s, you’ll have more time to spend on your career and personal aspirations. Write that novel, take a class, volunteer to lead a teen book group and keep telling yourself the same thing you tell your offspring, “You can do this” and “You’ll figure it out”.
Write articles or personal essays
As I mentioned, the odds are that you are not the only family going through all these readjustments. Articles are a great way to get paid while also being helpful to other parents. We all like to read about how others cope with or solve problems, and parenting young adults, restructuring your marriage, and reviewing your future are all fascinating topics for people in our age bracket. So, write away! Before you know it, it will be Thanksgiving and they will all be home again, along with a whole new set of adjustments to make!
Any other ideas? Please send them on!