About 10 years ago I realized that, as a society, we parents read way too many books about pregnancy and infancy and not enough about parenting. It was much longer ago that I marveled at the amount of energy and money we pour into infants, equipping ourselves and them with nursery furniture and fixtures, clothes and equipment, when everything is outgrown in the blink of an eye—and, in our case, occupies space in the attic for another 20 years.
As I glance at my bookcase, I count more than a dozen books about the first years of life. Were those really needed, when what we focused on at that stage was putting food in one end and cleaning up at the other? The loving came naturally.
By the time our children are adolescents, we are too busy pulling our hair out to read books. I did have one or two that helped in a pinch, but wouldn’t it have made better sense to read those in advance of onset?
Then came the dreaded Empty Nest Syndrome, for which I was completely unprepared—most likely because I was consumed with the here and now of the high school years. Then came the college years, during which parenting happens long distance. And then, the post college era.
Just weeks after our son graduated from college last spring, I struggled with identifying my role as a parent. You’d think your work is done, but isn’t your role just being redefined yet again? As the parent of an only child, I am the very model of the modern helicopter parent, always hovering. When is it time to fly out of the picture? How is my adult child going to navigate the adult world? Where are the books for this stage?
Well, it turns out there are plenty of books on parenting your adult child. I just never thought to look. I spent some time on Amazon.com this morning, when my son and his girlfriend went back to North Carolina after spending a week here, exploring possible relocation. Yes, we are inviting him back to the nest, so that he might have a better pad from which to launch the second year of his adult career. And I see there are nearly a dozen books on the subject.
Again, we contemplate our role as parents. We taught him what the cow says and where his nose is. Surely, 20 years later we can be of help in punching up a resume, crafting an elevator pitch, sharing advice on networking techniques, working up sample budgets and helping in the clarification of goals. But whose goals, his or ours?
I know the answer is this: we have an adult son who has matured into an outstanding man, caring and talented, in spite of us.