Back Off: Parenting An Adult



September means back to school, and back to school brings big changes for many parents. Young ones heading off to their first days of nursery school or kindergarten, or older kids moving on to elementary school or high school, or even beyond, and each new stage brings change and challenge.

I used to naively think that once my kids were older they wouldn’t need us as much. How wrong I was! The older the kids get, the more it seems they need their parents. Not just for me to teach them my exceptional dance moves, or for Kevin to provide free math tutoring services, but they just generally need us more.

More talking. More time. More money (that’s a given!). We give them more responsibility but at the same time we give them more space. It’s a strange dance we perform as we sway together to the music of “adolescence-turn-adulthood”, and I feel like I’m always tripping over myself.

This year our oldest began college, and every one of the pre-college parent sessions reminded us sharply that they might be our kids, but once in college they were adults in both form and function. 

Translation: Back off. 

I thought I’d be okay with this, but as my friends and my son can attest, the first week of assignments came home and I lost my mind a little bit. “When is this due?” “Where do you upload your assignments?” “What are you doing between classes?” “Where are you eating your lunch?” “Who do you talk to on the bus?” “Write in pencil, not pen!” "Don't forget to bring your computer to class!"

It turns out that parenting an adult is way harder than I thought it would be. Do you know why? Because you have to be prepared for them to get it wrong. To fail. To miss the deadline or to fail to grasp the point of the assignment, and to just watch it happen. 

When I think about how frustrated I am already when reading papers that need some serious proofreading, or seeing from the syllabus that he missed the mark on some of his assignments, I think of my own spiritual journey and how the Father views me. How often I get it wrong. How I missed opportunities to speak up, or I spoke up when I should have shut up. How hindsight showed me how far I missed the mark of the task the Lord had given me. 

So… is this the point where I draw a direct line from my own parenting skills to those of the Heavenly Father and tell myself that the Lord has to back off and let me make my own mistakes?

Heck no. 

Does the Lord “back off”? Well, sure he gave me free will to worship or to walk away, but I think in this context the threads holding together that particular parenting argument are quite weak. 

Scripture tells me that God relentlessly pursues me (Luke 15:8-10) and rejoices over me. That he sent a Messiah who saves me completely. He provides Scripture not just to teach me, but to rebuke me and correct me (2 Tim 3:16). And when I fail (as I often do), Jesus Christ advocates on my behalf before the Father. God is accessible at a moment’s notice (Hebrews 4:16), and I am assured that nothing can remove me from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39).

God will not back off or leave you to your own decisions. He does not watch you make poor choices and think, “Well, they’ll soon regret those choices, but what are ya gonna do?” (insert heavenly shrug here).

Maybe you don’t have adult children, or perhaps you have no children at all. Regardless I challenge you to remember that God has not left you to your own devices or washed his hands of you. When you are tempted to believe that God has fallen silent and is leaving you to suffer your choices in a hopeless state, name that as a lie and instead remind yourself that God will continue to pursue you until your time on this earth is done. 

And now, if you need me, I'll be silently reading assignments over my son's shoulder and sitting on my hands so I don't correct his mitstakes mistakes. 

Candi Thorpe

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