Getting along with your parents as an adult, part 2: More on the parent's responsibility

Hold on--today's post is super-super-long. Grab a cup of coffee before you start reading.

Yesterday we heard from Num-Num on the parent's responsibility to an adult child. Today's guest is my mom, who, like me, is a little on thelong-winded side. I asked her to write the post because she and I have a great relationship and my adult brother and his girlfriend like and trust her, too. She's a Christian, and that comes out in the piece she wrote for me, so beware if that'll offend you and skip over those parts. She writes:

How To Mother Your Child So You Can be Adult Friends
Four Easy Rules, Plus a Lot of Ruminations
by Moxie's Mom

1. Love your kid to bits. Unconditionally. 

2. Don't expect her to be an extension of you. Keep boundaries to let her be her own person. Respect her as a person. And take delight in finding out who she is, and how she is.

3. Don't be afraid of your kid's exceeding you. Take pride and pleasure in your kids' being better than you! 

4. Be selfish enough to want them to embrace your values and your faith. Work to achieve this, then toss it out there. Let them soar! And pray that they are better than you.

For the first, let me say that I did not set out to be my daughter's friend. I loved her to bits and was the best mother I knew how to be. In retrospect, the "method" went something like this:

Love Respect Share Care Treasure Thank Encourage Nurture Listen

Love 'em to bits.

Remember where parental authority comes from. We are stand-ins for God.
"The steadfast love of the LORD endures forever."

Steadfast Endure Do not expect an end.

Care for/love yourself in order to better do the same for your kids. For the "terrible twos" you need to get enough sleep and not over schedule yourself.

Never forget what it's like to be a kid.

Make/take time to do your favorite things. Allow your kids to know what tickles your fancy. Cultivate humor--family jokes.

Laugh with, not at. Laugh often. Laugh with abandon and delight.

Say "I love you." Say it again.

Be glad to see one another.

Light up when your child comes into the room.*

Show as much courtesy to your children as you would to your visiting clergyman! Yes, please. No, thank you. Here, I'll get that door. Do you need a hand? Oh, thank you; I needed that!

Be reasonably frank about who you are. Not Superwoman. But retain dignity.

Putting yourself down in front of your kids is dangerous. NEVER do it!

Allow yourself and others to make mistakes without losing face. Turn mistakes and wrong choices into learning experiences.

Analyze Discuss Evaluate Plan

Make extravagant plans. Make small plans. Plan surprises. Plan parties. Plan gifts. Plan projects for the good of the community. Build dreams. Acknowledge them for what they are: dreams. And then brainstorm what it would take to change them into realistic goals.

Indulge in "what-ifs."

Be creative. Ask open-ended questions. Experiment. Play word games. Challenge one another. Rent movies and share the Kleenex box! Cook for one another. Cook together.

Show consideration. Expect it in return.

Raising children to be selfish does no one any favors.

Let your children participate in your "good works." How many bouquets and loaves of fresh bread I delivered to neighbors and single schoolteachers throughout my childhood! How many Sundays I was sent to answer the door and entertain dinner guests until my mom was ready to call people to the dinner table (which I had helped to set)!

Give fair rewards. Praise when deserved. I still have a doll quilt Mom gave me as thanks for helping cut out forty-leven quilt blocks, which she sewed into doll quilts for the church bazaar. I was about seven, and took satisfaction from being entrusted with an important task, as well as knowing the pleasure of teamwork with my mom. I heard the bazaar lady exclaim over how pretty the quilts were, and I knew we'd done it together. But Mom decided to give me one for helping**. I remember being a little bit mystified. You see, I had already internalized her way of taking satisfaction from the doing, the giving, the anticipation of others' pleasure, the creative process, the Lord's work.

I think it's important to your relationship to keep on being yourself, even after your self becomes also "Mama." There is something unhealthy about "giving up" your life or "sacrificing" for your children. I don't mean you shouldn't make the child the center of your life at the appropriate time. But you rob the child, as well as yourself, of all those interesting talents, hobbies, foibles and quirks in your personality if you abandon your sense of self--humor, whimsy and all that attracted your spouse. Indulge your kooky side, don't pass yourself off as infallible--what a shock to the poor kid the day she discovers that lie!

Have a personality and allow your child to have one, too. Encourage and appreciate, applaud and chastise. But beware the urge to "mold." Especially when she's grown up and it's too late!

Share your faith. Practice it with your child.

Love Example Let go Pray Stand by

Never stop loving.

Have I said anything about respecting privacy? This is a touchy area, because there are some times and some topics where intervention is necessary--a breach of privacy, I suppose. Yet, even before the child has become adult, for a mom to honor her need to keep some things to herself--just may result in a smoother relationship because both sides "hold their tongues."

When it comes right down to it, to be a good friend you need to feed and nurture, love and respect. And if you want your child to grow up to be a friend, you need to start early with love and respect. Give as much freedom as is age-appropriate. it is far more rewarding to have your child come back freely than to come only out of guilt.

Guilt is one kind of obligation, a destructive one practiced by those working out of grasping and mean-spirited impulses. A better sense of obligation is the one built on love and gratitude, and a sense of duty to those with whom one allies. So a loved, respected child, by example, is likely to lavish love and respect back, and seek the company of that wellspring. Yet a child made to feel guilty and that he owes his parents can only struggle to pay what is due despite the crummy way he feels. He makes contact reluctantly. And that, too, makes him feel guilty. Controlling by guilt is a good way to drive your adult children away.

Be merciful. Apologize when appropriate. Forgive freely, yet uphold standards. Don't change the rules to make bad behavior "right." Your first job is to be a good parent, which means you teach the rules of living. You mustn't de-classify a sin for the sake of avoiding controversy, for being a friend. It doesn't work. In the end, it feels better to be called to account and forgiven. That is freeing.

AND LAST OF ALL,
Once your kids are adults, hold your tongue until asked.

Thank you for making me examine the subject. I feel very blessed to have such forgiving kids. I wasn't always as exemplary as I would like to recall. I was a yeller. And I'm sorry.

I have been very blessed.

Love,

Mom

One of the things I've always liked about my mom is that she's very deliberate and specific about showing the process. It's all a learning experience. I know that's what's let me be so forgiving of my own parenting mistakes and helped me see it all as a process of continuous improvement. No failures, only data points.

Tomorrow we're going to talk about being on the adult child side of things. I'm not an expert on this, only having one mom to deal with, but I can tell you some of the things I've observed.

Did my mom's post strike anything with you?

* My mom is good at being delighted over the phone, too. Every time I call she sounds like I'm calling to tell her she won the lottery.

** I'd never heard this story before she wrote it here. But it doesn't surprise me--when I was about 4 I helped her lay out some quilt blocks to make a quilt for my older cousin. I didn't know that Mom was making a matching one for me, too. When I opened the package with my quilt in it I looked at her and said, "But that's Kimmy's quilt!" I was so surprised and so happy when she told me we'd made one for me, too.