Mommying and the older child….how do you do it?

Mom blogs are almost a dime a dozen and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Yet for all things child related that get written about, the one area where I wish more moms would speak of is how mothering changes as your child becomes a teenager and then a young adult.

A few days ago, I was out talking with someone I had just met and we were talking about our kids and I mentioned having a 6 year old and a 20 year old. As usual, I was greeted with the “Wow, you have a grown child!” This happens often, after all most people who are middle class and above, at 39 rarely have grown kids. Granted this is a relatively new phenomenon as women delay having kids but in reality it wasn’t that long ago that having a 19 or 20 year old kid at my age was a norm. In some areas especially within lower socio-economic groups, having a child before 21 is not abnormal. It’s one of many ways that I am reminded of my status as a class straddler, after all I was born working class and while I am not technically still there, in many ways it’s what I know.

Funny thing is people who have younger kids often assume that by the time a kid is in college, the active work of parenting is over. Yet my own experience as I walk this path is that nothing could be further from the truth. Instead it’s a place of great transition and one that frankly at times I wish more people would talk about.

Last night I had a text exchange with the college boy that reminded me that we both are trying to find our place. My son is 20 but he is also a full time live on campus college student stuck in the wilds of Northern Wisconsin. He devotes his energy to his studies and his music. Since going to college he has learned to live on his own, but the reality is that me, The Spousal Unit and the former Spousal Unit financially provide for his day to day living. As I joke college kid is still on my payroll. Yet what does that mean?

I know that in the almost two years since the boy went to college that both me and the former Spousal Unit have tried to learn new ways of being with regard to allowing college kid the freedom to make his own decisions. I rarely offer edicts, in fact I am pretty sure I don’t but if I feel strongly about something, I will state that I strongly suggest that he consider my point of view. When college boy’s car became a death trap, the former Spousal Unit didn’t tell college kid to stop driving but also strongly suggested that he give up the car since it was beyond repair…again the college kid chose to heed the advice but what happens when a time comes when he decides not to heed the advice?

I must admit this is all new territory for me, at 20 I was getting out of an ill-fated marriage, struggling with being a single mom and trying to keep my head above water. My son often comments that my life at 20 in no way resembles his life at 20. It’s true. My own parents didn’t feel that I needed to be parented at 20 yet in many ways I did still need parenting but it didn’t happen. I think too many times we think that adulthood is this magical thing that happens when we hit a certain age when in fact it’s a process. When the babies are little we know what we need to do, we have a good idea of how to meet their needs but when the calendar says they are an adult, that’s when the process becomes murky. How much space do we give them?

Last night my son responded to a message I had sent him saying “Don’t worry about me, your plate is full” I know he meant well but the truth is as a mother my worrying and fretting  didn’t stop at a certain point, he may not be as labor intensive as my 6 year old but believe me I still worry. I worry when I know he is in a funk, hell I worry when he is not yet I sometimes don’t know when to Mom and when to let go.

The parent child relationship is far more than the early years and it’s an area where frankly I would love to hear more voices from those in the trenches.



3 thoughts on “Mommying and the older child….how do you do it?”

  1. I wonder if since “mommy blogging” is a relatively new “thing”, once the kids of these bloggers get older there will be more written about them. or maybe because of respect for privacy, these discussions need to happen more privately than on a blog… but it certainly seems like they do need to happen.

    My experience with parenting a 20yo is currently limited to remembering my own experiences as a 20yo myself. I figure by that age the parents’ role is mainly to offer advice and support, but let the child (an adult by then, really) decide on their own. This gets kinda murkier if you’re still supporting them financially, but the hope is that in the preceding years you helped teach him as best you could, so that now it’s up to him (mostly) to make decisions for himself and figure out his footing. I imagine the hardest part about parenting at this age is that awful feeling of wanting to help them do the right thing but being relegated to the sidelines… =/ It sounds like you two are still very close, though, which right there shows what a wonderful job you’ve done so far as his parent.

  2. Your example about the deodorant is what I am talking about, no one talks about stuff after say 6-7 it seems. Understandably we want to respect their privacy but at the same time as moms I think once they start hitting the tween, teen and beyond years that’s when the advice drops off. By the way, 9 seems pretty normal for starting deodorant use, but no one knows that.

    Sounds like by the time you hit my age, you will be a lot like me as far as having the grown up kids. It’s an interesting experience, I literally only have 2-3 friends with grown kids and they are all older than me.

    By the way and you know this already, I love your writing.

  3. While I don’t have a child in their 20’s, mine’s nine and I’m trying to find that balance of writing about motherhood without writing on the back of my kid. I think you do an amazing job of finding that balance. A few weeks ago I was at a lunch with a group of other bloggers and mentioned that we just bought my kid deodorant and that I was partially terrified of early puberty. One of the bloggers told me she did the same thing for her son at the same age. The sense of relief was overwhelming.

    I thought, where is this post, where is this advice, why are we only writing about babies and toddlers? Like you, I’m a class straddler. I’m college educated and a former teen mother (by adoption) and then an early mother in my 20’s. When I’m 40, my kid will 19 and my other one will be 26.

    I tend to focus on the birth mother aspect of motherhood and the other writers I have found have been amazing. But, in the end, how to write about everything else baffles me.

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