Have you ever had an opinion that you know you don’t want to say out loud to your adult kid, something like “you’re clearly not gonna get that job you’re counting on” or “that guy you’re seeing is a loser”? You don’t want the job or the guy to come up, so you ramble on about anything else with great animation, your voice getting all high pitched and weird sounding.
You love your kid, you know their business is their business, and you want to be the kind of parent who knows when to keep her mouth shut.
When you hang up the phone, having dodged that bullet, you are relieved… for a moment. But then, the wondering sets in: did s/he notice how lame and awkward you were? Does s/he now wonder what’s wrong? And, how long can you keep this up when there is always something that is gonna feel taboo? How will you ever be close and feel connected if you have to censure everything so carefully?
Notice that when you resist and try to hide your thoughts, and judge yourself for having them, the thoughts themselves can take on outsized power. They become the elephant in the room. You may resent feeling judged, even if it is yourself doing the judging. When you don’t accept or feel good about our own thoughts and feelings, its difficult to have a clean, clear relationship with yourself. And when you’re working so hard to censure and hide your thoughts, its pretty impossible to feel comfortable and connected with others.
So what to do?
First, don’t judge the thought or yourself for having it. Thoughts arise unbidden and we get to decide what to do with them.
Minimize the energy behind the thought. Don’t turn away from it- take a look, be curious.
Question the thought. Ask: is it true? Am I in a position to see the full picture? Could I be wrong? What else do I think? What do I want to think? What do I want to communicate to my kid?
Decide what thoughts you do want to think about your son or daughter. The thoughts should be believable to you and support how you want to show up for your kid.
Take the initiative to communicate that to your son or daughter. That could sound something like:
“I’ll probably always have my own ideas and thoughts about your life, sometimes based on feeling protective of you, or on my own experiences, fears, challenges, my desires or regrets about my own life. But I know this is your life to live your way, and I just want to be here to love you and support you. That’s what I am working on- bear with me if I fumble sometimes.”
When you figure out what you want to say, you don’t have to worry so much about what you might say.