Want a Better Relationship with Your Adult Kid?

Do you wish you had a better relationship with your adult kid? 

What would it take to make it better?

If you answered something like: 

If she would be nicer to me, if he would call more often, if they would make better choices or settle down or work harder or drink less or or or… then I would feel better about them, then we could have a better relationship.

A lot of people will agree with you, and commiserate with you… because you are powerless to do anything, the relationship is out of your hands. You are at the mercy of your kid’s behavior. It is a very painful place to be. 

But is that the way it has to be? 

Here is what I believe is true: 

You, and I, and everyone, cannot make other people behave differently than they do. Even our kids.

People get to be and do what they choose.

When we set rules, expectations, “shoulds” for others, we often end up feeling disappointed, angry or hurt.

How we feel is because of how we are thinking. We think we feel hurt because our son didn’t call, but if it wasn’t for our thought “he should call” we wouldn’t be feeling hurt. 

It seems like a nice thought, a reasonable expectation: my son should call. A kid should call his mother. 

But let’s look at the reality: when we have that thought about our kid, we feel disappointed and hurt, and then how do we behave? Most likely we complain, we pout, we decide to “show him” by not calling him, or maybe we call and chew him out… And what is the result of all that?

Can you see where that reasonable thought turns out to be a kind of poison? 

So what can we do differently? 

We can start trying out different ways of thinking about our kid. So he’s not big on calling- what if we worked on making that okay. Not making it mean he is selfish or doesn’t love us. Or that we are a bad mom or have a bad relationship. But maybe instead, thinking, he is living his life, as we all are. What else? Busy, doing things, taking care of stuff, minding his business, being a grownup, just being himself. I’ve raised an independent man, living his own life.

Can you feel the relief, the easing off? 

Ultimately, our relationships with our kids are based on what we choose to think about them. Our thoughts, the emotions they generate, and the way we behave are what end up creating the relationship. 

So… what kind of relationship will you create?

If I Believe My Thought


Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

Sometimes I have thoughts that are judgmental, racist, petty or unfair.

If I believe that my thoughts reveal my moral character, I would then believe that I was a judgmental, racist, petty or unfair person.

I might then think that something is wrong with me, that I am a terrible person. I might feel deep shame. I might try to cover up those thoughts, from others and myself.

If I did try to better myself, to think more acceptable and honorable thoughts from a place of self judgment or shame, it would be like building on a shaky, unstable foundation.

If I tried to hide those unwanted thoughts from myself and others, I would always be on guard, fearful of being found out, disconnected from myself and others.

But if I believe 

-that everything I have ever seen, heard or read is imprinted in my brain, in my memory

-that I carry with me a record of my thoughts and experiences, as well as what I have picked up from my family and school and neighborhood and country and world’s thoughts and experiences

And I understand I have the ability to

-become aware of those thoughts

-decide what I think of those thoughts

-choose which ones I want to embrace, identify with and act from 

And I discover that 

-it is possible to be myself and let others be themselves

-it is possible to be with our humanness without fear, without hiding

Then

-I understand the value of awareness, education, acceptance and love

-I understand the power of intentional thought and action

-I choose who I want to be and how I want to live

And I feel hope and love and faith in humanity.

Endless Amazing Colors

Today I made lunch from kr@ft mac ’n’ cheese, a can of tuna and a basket of spinach just picked from our garden. It was orange and green, delicious and comforting. 

Why share this? Well, I’ve been thinking how much we sort ourselves and others into us and them, pc and not, snowflake and not, mask wearers vs non mask wearers, etc. In the news, on facebook, in conversations. We complain that others’ words and actions create division (presidents for example) but we are all doing it, absolutely including myself too. It feels good for a moment to land a dart, expose “stupidity,” feel smart and righteous… but then I am left feeling either more pissy, or just exhausted and petty. 

In any case, more separate and alienated.

And my lunch? It seemed to me to represent something. I guess I saw my lunch as a crossover: Permaculture meets mainstream. Farmer’s market meets Walmart.

Point being, we are all unique, and our lives colorful collections of what works and makes sense for us. And shifting and changing all the time. We are not Two Countries. We are not two different kinds of people. When we think divisively, we create more division.

People are, life is, ideas are, much more gray than black and white. And by gray I also mean brown, blue, green, purple, cinnamon, marigold, chartreuse, aqua, golden, rust, peach… there is no end to the amazing colors in our world. 

So I’ll be fuchsia and you be whatever color pleases you. And our lunch can be orange and green.

Equally Beloved

It has been an interesting time politically, these past four years. A lot of opportunity for me to work on anger, frustration, judgement, disappointment. A lot of opportunity to think about truth, integrity, honesty. To grieve for all the partisanship, small-mindedness, meanness.

To figure out how much news input I can handle. 

Sometimes I want to get away from my anger. Sometimes I want to indulge it, stoke it.

The covid pandemic has brought all this to new heights and lows.

I’ve been asking myself, if I value and work toward acceptance and unconditional love toward all humans, how is it okay to judge and condemn our current president? To feel such animosity and anger? 

I zoom up and imagine a Big Mama, Higher Vantage Point, GodsEye View, etc., looking down at Me and Donny in the playground, duking it out. Both her children. Equally beloved to her. 

What does she say to me? People are people. They get to be who they are. You know this. You are who you are and he is who he is. Do you want to hate him? Punish him? Is that how you want to feel? Is that how you want to spend your energy?

Here is what I can do now. I can decide not to hate. I know how to do that. I know how to pay attention to my thoughts and choose thoughts that are not hateful, that do not denigrate. 

I can think, he is a human being. He a human being who says a lot of things. He is a human being acting out of the feelings and thoughts he has- just as I am, just as we all are.

I don’t have to approve of him. Like him. Agree with him. 

I can accept that he is who he is, what he does and says are what he does and says. 

I can focus on what is important to me, focus on my own integrity, find my own truth, stand up for what I believe to be good, thoughtful and valuable. I can appreciate all the amazing wonderful good stuff in the world, all around me. Work toward more of that. 

And I can accept my anger, when it arises, as an outcome of how I choose to view the world. I hope not to stoke that anger, but to feel it, own it, listen to it, and use it to sharpen my commitment to what I value.

I hope to always keep my mind and heart open. To keep growing, changing, reaching for whatever is next. To question myself. Clearly there is so much more for me to learn and to understand about life, about being human.

Pandemic? How Fun!

The other night, our household played the game Pandemic. Do you know of it? It’s a cooperative board game where the players work together to keep diseases in various parts of the world from spreading and becoming a pandemic.

While I love most games, I saw this one as falling into a category I’m not good at. The kind where each person plays a character in a made-up world that you have to wrap your head around. The kind where there are a LOT of rules to learn.  

But, we hadn’t had a game night in weeks, and I love hanging out with my peeps, so I was going to give this a go.

There we were, four of us around the table. My son read the rules out loud, and set up and explained the board and cards and little playing pieces. 

Soundtrack in my head:
I’m gonna suck at this.
It’s kind of creepy to be playing this game while we are in a real pandemic.
I’m not following anything Sam is saying about the rules.

We all had our characters assigned now, with their particular abilities. (Me: Lady Scientist.) The little cubes representing diseases were piled onto various countries on the world map in front of us. Everyone else started discussing strategies. I had no idea what they were talking about. 

I tried to remember what we were supposed to do in our turns. What did Sam say? Umm… choose four of the actions to do from this little card here, then pick two of these blue cards, then turn up two disease cards. So complicated!

Game starts- whew, my turn would be last so I had time to observe before it was time to do anything. Lots of discussion about which actions each player should choose to move themselves and then help others get to the cities and wipe out diseases. Lots of rules about each of those steps. 

But get this… the other players kept forgetting the last step of their turn: picking  the disease cards. And I remembered! So as the game went on I became the person that made sure everyone completed all the steps. Me, who was in a meltdown about all the rules, became the rule keeper. 

And each time when my turn came around, everyone jumped in to discuss my options and advise on what I could do to help the team keep the world safe. 

Soundtrack in my head became:
Hey, this is kind of fun!
Can you believe I’m the rule girl of the game- how funny is that!
I might not be great at this, but apparently that’s okay.

I started to feel somewhat confident. I started to relax and notice how the game worked. The words people were saying began to make sense. We were all helping each other. We were eradicating the world of diseases! Together we were gaining on world wide problems! 

And in addition to my assigned role of Lady Scientist, I inadvertently became the rule girl, keeping us all doing what we were supposed to do in the made up world of this game.

And:
I did something I wasn’t confident about, or excited about, because I wanted to just be with my family.
I found a role for myself. 
I began to focus on what I could do.
I accepted (gratefully) all advice and help offered.
I found that when I relaxed and stopped thinking about what I didn’t know, my brain began to work better, to absorb information, to track what was going on.
I realized not everyone has to be the leader.
I realized it’s okay to bumble along until things start to make sense.
I was glad to know I can let myself feel dumb, and still have fun.
I enjoyed playing a game my family was really good at, enjoyed their enthusiasm, and learned something new.

And I enjoyed thinking about all the ways this game reflected real life, real life reflected this game, and my experience of playing this game reflected my experience of real life. 

And now my head wants to explode. Is anyone up for a game of Scrabble? Mah Jongg? All Aboard?

What If Your Loneliness

What if your loneliness
          your grief
                   your frustration
                             your anger

holds within it a message for you, 
          carefully worded to meet you here, now?

What if you invited your grief, your anger in
and sat
and listened
as long as it took

as if it were a visitor from some inner world
that speaks in dream images
and in the feelings that flood your body and color your days?

What if your loneliness
          your grief
                    your frustration
                              your anger

is the perfect vehicle to move toward the not yet you 
who patiently waits, watching with love
as long as it takes?

Gratitude: When the Mind Balks

Giving thanks. Appreciating. Looking for goodness. Amplifying the best in every being, every thing with our attention. 

Seeking to find value even in the difficult, the awkward, the painful.

A wonderful attitude to practice now and any time.

And if your mind balks, your heart clenches tight, your inner dialogue is “but, but, but…” at all the talk of gratitude: that is where you are right now. It’s okay. You’re human and human beings get sad, feel anger, feel pain. We can’t always reach gratitude from where we are standing.

Can I say, though: be your own best friend. Try not to use Thanksgiving and gratitude that you can’t feel right now as an excuse to beat yourself up, or to beat up others. Do yourself that favor, if you can.

Be curious about what is going on in your brain. Curious and open and compassionate. About your life. About what you are thinking, and feeling.

Can you be okay with where you are right now, okay with the difficult, the awkward, the painful? 

Perhaps you can give yourself this gift.

What Strange New Creature?

Remember returning home from college, so full of all your new ideas and experiences? 

In one of my holiday memories from that time, apparently fresh from a full body dive into feminist theory, I remember lecturing my mom and her best friend Peedie on how they threw away the best years of their lives on marriage and raising kids. Still makes me cringe. 

Are you wondering what strange new creature will arrive on your doorstep soon, after months away at university? And how you’re supposed to know how to parent this newly semi-adult, semi-independent kid of yours?

You actually don’t have to know; s/he will probably come home knowing enough for several people. I am joking… kind of. Seriously, just be open and curious. Not creepy and interrogational; just show interest. Conversationally ask questions. And not (just) about grades, class sizes, whether they liked a class or not. Avoid yes/no questions, as they can be showstoppers. 

Think of open ended, leading questions to get them talking. What are they finding most interesting about their classes? surprising about being in college? What were some of their favorite assignments, and why? If you hit on something that gets them to open up, keep it going: “oh yeah? hmmm… how so?”

This is how the strange creature will become less strange (or at least less unknown.)

And if s/he starts lecturing you on some particular socio-economic-cultural-gender privilege, or spouting esoteric theory… be gentle. To be passionate about new ideas is a wonderful thing. Even if you don’t love the idea, love the passion, appreciate the intellectual exercise. 

Try to stay calm and unruffled. Don’t take it personally. And try not to judge. As you calmly say, “oh yeah? mmm… how so?” visualize reminding them of this conversation in forty years. 

You chuckling, s/he cringing… so worth it!

Thanksgiving Planning (hold the Martha Stewart)

Do you have a college student coming home for Thanksgiving?

Are you making big plans for the holiday?

Are you thinking everything should be extra perfect for this special homecoming?

It might seem really important to plan the perfect homecoming Thanksgiving celebration to welcome your child home… but can I throw out a few things to consider?

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most highly traveled times of the year, and that the weather can be unpredictable and changeable in late November. Whether flying, driving, or coming home by bus or train, there can be delays, cancellations, missed connections, heavy traffic, and difficult road conditions.

Emotions may be running high: kids homesick, parents missing kids. You may not have seen each other in a couple of months. Many first year college students are also keen to see their high school friends who will also be home for the holiday. 

Family traditions for Thanksgiving often include elaborate and lengthy cooking plans, large family gatherings, extra leaves in the dining table, tablecloths and candles.

All this happens in a very short time window, potentially made shorter by travel glitches.

You might look for ways to simplify this year: the menu, the guest list, the preparations.

But more importantly, you might consider all the above factors I mentioned in this way:

Here is what is NOT within your control:

Things. Other people. What they do and say and think. How they feel. Weather. Traffic. Sometimes: how the turkey turns out, or the pumpkin pie.

Here is what IS within your control:

How you respond. What you think, and how you therefore feel. What you value. How you act. How flexible or open you are or aren’t. How much humor you can find in life. How much of life you welcome and embrace. How much you allow everybody to be who they are. How much love and compassion you created for yourself and others.

Your Thanksgiving planning? See it as a perfect opportunity, like every other moment in your life, to practice how you want to live your life. 

Why Your Kids Don’t Text You Back

Here’s a question I hear a lot, from moms with kids away at college:

Why can’t s/he just text me back? 

Sometimes followed by: I sent her three texts today and she hasn’t replied to any of them! 

Or: he knows how I worry when I don’t hear back.

I can’t answer the question exactly, but I’ll take a stab at it:

She’s in class and has her phone off.

He’s late to meet friends for lunch and is running across campus.

She’s in the library, reading a novel for her American Lit class.

He is doing research for a history paper.

She’s sleeping in as she was up all night with a friend who’s having a hard time.

She is worried about her midterms next week and doesn’t feel like talking.

He is typing up his Geography notes.

She’s trying to figure out her schedule for next semester.

He’s in his Sociology professor office, discussing today’s class.

He’s struggling with a math problem.

She’s working on ideas for her business marketing class project.

S/he forgot to charge her phone.

He’s going for a run.

She is getting dressed to go out with her roommates. 

She’s looking for the R.A. because she locked her keys in her room.

In other words, they’re busy. Even if it’s busy hanging out with friends having a beer. They will get back to you when they have time, when they feel moved to, when they have something to say. 

Moms, I know you love them and are thinking about them and want to stay connected. Your kids know that too. And by not replying to every text, they are saying, as gently as they can: okay, Mom, that’s too much. I love you, but I need to be me, outside of who I am to you right now.

Your kids are creating their lives, independent of their family. Making new connections. It’s hard, it’s exciting, it takes focus… and it’s important. It’s healthy and appropriate.

What’s healthy and appropriate for you is to take care of yourself. Your thoughts, your feelings, your worries, your needs. 

And for you to live your own life. This is a perfect time for you to be redirecting all that wonderful loving mama-attention toward yourself. 

If you need ideas or support, I’ve got you. Click here to schedule a free, introductory, 30 minute call with me.