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Accepting our Adult Children’s Choices

What would you do if your 19-year-old son told you that he and his on again-off again girlfriend were expecting a baby?  Writer Anne Lemott confronted that very question and wrote a book about it, “Some Assembly Required,” chronicling the first year of her grandson’s life.The passage was rocky, and it wasn’t just the midnight feedings. In the book, Ms. Lemott details her emotions about suddenly becoming a grandmother and her struggles with how much she should interfere/suggest/help  her son and his new baby.

The New York Times Motherlode Book Club selected “Some Assembly Required” for its reading list, generating a discussion about the difficulty of accepting an adult child’s choices. One of the best comments came from the father of two sons who calls himself the “Dudes’ Dad.” He writes:

Acceptance is at the heart of parenting. Acceptance, in fact, is a foundation to any deep relationship…It starts with the little things, such as their choices in food, clothes, friends, then some bigger items like career choice, and spouses, and it may sometimes come to what Anne Lamott is facing now in her relationship with Sam.

Acceptance is an essential ingredient in a life of love.

Of all the challenges of raising children, many parents struggle the most with accepting who their adult children have become as human beings and their resulting choices. Baby boomer parents tell tales of conflict over choices big and small,  from lifestyle, love and careers to a grandchild’s name. Yes, we can speak our piece but the ultimate decisions are in their hands. If we want a close relationship with our children, then there is often little choice but to accept their decisions.

So easy to say, and yet so hard to do! So how do parents learn acceptance? Some of us never do, and we make sure our children know of our disapproval and the relationship suffers as a consequence. Some of us grudgingly accept their decisions, and we remind our children every so often of that fact, and then wonder why they don’t call more often. And some of us find the inner strength to accept the situation and offer unconditional love to our children.

When it comes to adult children, we can’t change most things. We can withhold love, money, friendship, comfort and more  but in the end we lose.  In struggling to learn acceptance, perhaps the first line of  the “Serenity Prayer” offers some guidance: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”  

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • rnemzoff April 23, 2012, 8:31 am

    Acceptance is helped by focusing on the positive when our adult children make the best of a bad situation. Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children

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