In the summertime, Wednesdays are reserved for a standing lunch date with some special ladies. I’ve grown with and known these moms for nearly a decade, so as we sit around a table enjoying a few rare hours of grown-up conversation, our discussion inevitably spring-boards back to the topic of our children and to the blessed struggles we encounter with our lovable progeny.
These moms and I have long since graduated from the endless exhaustion of 3am feedings, torturous toddler debates, potty training and frazzled temper tantrums. Thankfully, those early childhood battles have been successfully won at this point, or at least survived.
We’re now war-torn veterans stepping into a new role with grown-up kids. Some of us are newly initiated empty nesters. A few of us have one or two out the door with some stragglers at home, hanging on in high school. As promised, these babies grew up, and, yes, they will always be just that—our “babies,” no matter what the numbers on their driver’s licenses say. So plunging into this new chapter of necessary separation is a frightening transition, and the ever-present question we ladies keep circling back to again and again is essentially this:
How do we begin to disconnect?
It is counterintuitive to talk about disconnecting with your child. I’ve spent more than two decades fighting tooth and nail to make solid connections with these kids, to help them know they can fully trust their dad and me to instruct them in everything from tooth-brushing to long division to forgiving and loving one another. We’ve made so many connections at so great a cost, why ever consider a disconnect?
We do it because it’s right and good for these new adults (or almost-adults) to begin to stand solo, to trudge their own paths. It sure doesn’t feel that way to my mom heart, though. I’m not sure how to responsibly turn off the spigot of 24/7 support, care, and full-on instruction that they still seem to need. Never mind that these young adult-ish humans in my house are making it quite clear they are ready for that well to run dry.
This is perfectly normal, of course. Kids are always desirous of their own complete and total independence far sooner than they are capable of sustaining it. Parents know that, which may be why we struggle so fiercely to know how and when to properly step back.
“They could fail!” my friends and I catastrophize.
No, they will definitely fail at times. And meet with pain. And consequences. Still, the healthy human progression toward becoming a competent adult requires a disconnection begin to inch into the picture.
That’s one of the reasons we keep our Wednesday lunch dates.
“I worry that I didn’t teach him enough Scripture while he was young.”
“Do you think she is remembering not to go out alone after dark?”
“He does NOT need a credit card!”
“Oh, hey, have I told you what my precious, bonehead adult child did last week?”
Our roundtable of moms is a merry mix of laughter, worry, and unwelcome ignorance. It’s an infectious kind of ignorance that sticks to your bones and might make you twitch a little, because the reality is that there are so many things happening in our big kids’ lives right now that we are not privy to. They have stepped into this big, free, dangerous world, and mom can’t be there to swoop in with a safety net, instruction manual, and Spider-man band-aids.
Disconnection is a scary thing for me. It’s a faith-building thing. Thankfully, God knows what’s up even when I don’t, and they are His children, too. Primarily so, in fact. Why do I always forget that?
And so we grown-up girls continue to weekly pass around the chocolate-chip cookies and remind each other of our own Father’s instruction to “train ‘em up in the Word and they won’t depart.” Sometimes, though, it looks very much like they might. So we put down the cookies and we pray and pray some more. And we commit them to His hands, all the while knowing God may have to pry our sticky little mommy fingers away.
Disconnecting in a holistic and enriching way requires a kind of grace and peace only God can supply. We are digging hard into that truth. This circle of veteran moms encourages one another, but we also affirm that we don’t have the answers. We settle for cheering on the mom who decided to not take the bait for another fight with her grown kid. We commiserate with the mama whose baby is met with some hard consequences for a foolish adult decision. We remind each other again and again that, though we miss them, the goal has always been for them to go. And they are still in process. We remember out loud that the women we are now didn’t exist when we were twenty, so our babies probably still have some space to grow. And so, it seems, do we.
Thankfully, God is at work on us all.
In days past, we felt ourselves to be a physical life-line for our children, literally keeping them alive with food and boundaries and love. But we are not designed to stay in that life-line role. And I have to believe that when a healthy disconnection takes place, a new and different kind of connection will be established with these adult children, something that’s richer.
Less of a lifeline and more of a love-line.
Less about requirements and desperation; more about respect and willing affection.
If the Wednesday mamas had a mission statement, I think we would say our goal is to become the most highly valued advice-givers our grown kids could ask for. Advice, mind you, not necessarily instruction. Man, that’s tough, because advice-givers often must wait to be asked for their advice.
So we mama bears struggle to wait in the fringes until our grown cubs decide to come to us. We pray God will give us peace in the waiting, no matter how long. And we pray also He will keep them from drowning in the torrent of good advice that will surely burst forth when they do finally ask. We breathe our Father’s grace and trust He will make this weird, difficult, adult-sized new connection into something beautiful that points right back to Him.
Jennifer Hildebrand loves piecing together words to explore the intersections of faith and daily life. Her poems and personal writings have been featured in print and online in publications such as The Rabbit Room, Fathom Magazine and Christian Woman Magazine. Jennifer lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband and three kids and periodically shares poems and other musings at brandedmelody.blogspot.com.