Friday, July 07, 2017

I get knocked down, but I get up again.

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What do you do when your adult child makes a mistake? You help them get back up, let them dust off, and hope you taught them well enough to learn from their mistake. As a parent of an adult child, that’s as far as your job goes. It’s no longer your job to fix things for them. It’s important for them to learn how to ‘adult’ on their own. Help them get up off the ground when they fall, but let them stand on their own. That’s how you encourage a child to become an independent adult.

This isn’t easy to do. Your instinct is quite the opposite after taking care of them their entire life. It’s not easy, but it’s important. I know it’s hard, but we’re not doing them any favors if we run to the rescue every time they stumble. Fixing their problems promotes dependence, and that’s not the goal of parenting. We want them to learn to be responsible adults capable of handling whatever curve ball life throws at them.

Making mistakes is part of the transition process. Show me someone whose kid didn’t make a mistake during the teen years, and I’ll show you a lying parent. It’s not about keeping them from making mistakes; it’s about teaching them to assess and adjust. It’s about teaching them to correct their own course to meet their goals. It’s about teaching them independent thinking and problem-solving. The only thing you can do is hope they can figure out what happened, why it happened, and how to fix it.

One of my adult children recently took a fall. Smacked the ground pretty hard, really. We helped that child back up and stepped back. As a mother, you worry that your kid is going to keep making the mistake. You worry they’re going to totally screw up their future. You worry they’re going to do something that will affect them for the rest of their life. You worry. It’s what mothers do. My kid made a mistake. I had my say, and I backed off completely. You know what happened? My kid stood tall like a boss.

As a parent, when your kid makes a mistake you take it personal. You feel responsible. You wonder if you failed. You wonder where you went wrong. I did. I just wanted to sit in a dark room and bawl my eyes out for days. If that is where you are right now, let me tell you this: It’s not about whether your kid makes a mistake, because your kid will. It’s about how they handle the mistake. That’s where you see what they are made of, and you’ll likely be surprised.

Yes, you’re going to worry. Yes, you’re going to have self-doubt. Yes, you’re going to wonder if your kid is ready to take on the world. Sit back and watch. I did, and I saw everything I needed to know as a parent. I did my job, and I did it well. My kid knew how to handle the situation. My kid knew what needed to be done. My kid made a mistake, owned it, and adjusted course to ensure future success. I didn’t have to lecture. I didn’t have to be the overbearing parent. I just let my kid handle it, and I saw the kid was now an adult. It happened in a single moment, just like that. It was bittersweet. I was proud (even after such a mistake), but I was also sad. The kid was gone. An adult stood before me.

♫I get knocked down, but I get up again. 
You are never gonna keep me down.♫

You see, being an adult doesn’t mean avoiding making mistakes. It means learning from mistakes. It means owning mistakes rather than passing the blame. It means fixing mistakes. My adult child took ownership of a serious mistake. My adult child learned from the mistake. My adult child really learned, and I don’t think I ever have to worry about a recurrence. That’s what adults do, and that is what my adult child did.

Is it odd to say you’re proud when your adult child makes a mistake? Maybe it is, but I am proud - proud of how well a mistake was handled, without me. I’m not proud of the mistake. I’m proud of how it was handled. Isn’t that the best you can hope for? We raise our children to become independent adults. I haven’t failed at that.

My children are not perfect. No child is. They are perfectly flawed individuals with their own personality quirks and thought processes. They stumble, and they hop right back up and try it again. Sometimes they fall, and they still stand up and keep going. It’s not about the fall; it’s about the climb. I think I have equipped them with the right climbing gear to make a good go of it in this world.

Best Wishes, 

P.S. Ladies, this does not apply to the adult child also known as ‘husband.’ Feel free to act like an overbearing parent of a tween when needed. ;-)