Thanks for coming! I am very excited to start this online book club with you; and even though nothing substitutes a face to face discussion, I am confident that this will be a blessing to all of us. Isn’t technology a blessing?
Jim Newheiser in the introduction of the book tells us that one of the reasons why he decided to write this book was because he couldn’t find books to help him and his wife learn how to deal with the challenges they were encountering in the new season in their lives: “challenges that confronted both [them] as parents and [their] sons as adult children”.
Newheiser asks, on page twelve, some questions that well-intentioned parents have asked when the time to let go of their adult children arrives; and this one, in my opinion, is the hardest one to answer, “What should parents do if their children make choices with which they disagree?” As we’ll continue to read on, we’ll find many of our questions answered.
I appreciate on page thirteen that the author makes it clear that this book is “based on the assumption that Scripture is sufficient, not only to tell us how to gain salvation, but also to help us establish wise, godly relationships with our own adult kids.” Yes, the Scriptures are the key and the door; the map and the road that will help us be better parents, better spouses. Sometimes, however, we need the advice from a friend, a counselor, or a book to help us see with more clarity and to understand better the things that are not evident to us right in the midst of the circumstances we are going through. So let’s continue considering this book with a grateful heart for books like this one, and friends like *you,* who recognize that it is only when we rely on God that we can bless our children no matter what age they are.
Chapter One: Is It That Time Already?
So true! All our stories are complex because we are complex people. The relationships among us “are often a tangled web, woven over decades. For this reason, none of [our] stories is black-and- white, and each requires wisdom from the Lord.” This made me think that we will need, as we read on, to be able to distinguish principles from methods.* The principles apply to every case, the methods may vary. As we read on, let’s pray that God will help us understand which are the principles and discern which methods are the best for us to approach in our relationship with each one of our children.
The fact that the brevity of the season of parenting our children is God’s design, is a comfort to every momma who thinks she will never be ready to let them go. If it is God’s design that children must leave their parents, and it is, it is then a very good thing: good for them and good for us.
God’s design is perfect and perfect are all His ways. If we believe this, it will be easier for us to start preparing our hearts for the day our children leave. God’s design is perfect and it will do us good to trust Him on this. I love the author’s input on this matter, because really, we all have heard so much about the “empty nest,” that without even giving much thought to it, we are dreadfully expecting its coming (like we were once having nightmares about the “terrible-two-years” or “the-impossible-teen-age-years”), and making room for it in our hearts. Yes, we don’t necessarily like change, “particularly when the change means that our identity and relationships must be reshaped,” but doesn’t this make you think on how important it is for us, in the first place -and pass this to younger moms-, to strive daily to have our identity well grounded in Christ? Who we are in Christ should be the anchor of our lives in any kind of waters.
“We’ve come to realize that the term empty nest is misleading. When the kids leave, the nest is not empty because you are both still there. Furthermore, as your marriage relationship grows and becomes even stronger, your home can become a very special, warm place to which your adult children will want to return for special family events and holidays. And it can be a place where they can seek refuge in times of trouble. Empty nest? Hardly.”
Besides the challenge of the idea of the “empty-nest”, do you agree with me, that maybe one of the hardest things to do in this new season of our lives is to understand the changing of our attitude toward our children? To remember that “we are not to fight to maintain control, but to strive to change our relationship from in-control parents to respected friends” is not easy. It takes practice and intentionality as well as time and many conversations.
Openness, mutual respect, and love (p.21-22) are key elements, the author says, that should be present in our relationship with each one of our children. One of the most important ways to show that we are pursuing these three is by being good listeners. I totally agree with that one answer a parent gave to the author, “The greatest challenge has been not giving my opinion about things. I often have the urge to offer advice in order to help my children keep from making mistakes or poor choices.” What about you? Is this a hard thing for you too?
Do you remember how we used to repeat over and over -and over- again the same instruction to our little ones? I am sure we all, at a certain point, said the ugly phrase in an ugly tone, “How many times do I have to repeat to you not to do that!” Well, maybe now it is the time to repeat over and over -and over again, to ourselves how much we need to listen with love, patience, and attentively to each one of our children. Moms, let’s be intentional: “No Interruptions Allowed Here” might be a good sign in the kitchen.
“If we can patiently learn to listen rather than always demanding to be heard, as James 1:19 teaches, our child will know that we respect his opinion and his right to differ with our views.”
Where to look now that our children are becoming independent? Now as always, we must look to Jesus. Jesus was, and the author reminds us through different examples, the perfect son to Mary and Joseph. Jesus was an independent adult who never failed to honor his parents. But wait, let’s linger a little bit more in the story plot. What about Mary? She never tried to pull him back, to restrain him, or to manipulate him. Oh, she was indeed full of grace! That God may fill our lives with such grace and wisdom!
“It is a sad reality that some parents sinfully abuse their position of authority.”
This abuse not only happens when mom and dad are bigger than their child and misuse the rod. We don’t have a rod anymore, but we have words, and they sting and hurt even more. All the cases we read about on page twenty-six are not that extreme, they do happen. Can we think of a case in which I have tried to use my authority to push my adult child into a certain decision? Am I falsely accusing him for not being submissive and for not honoring me when his only fault is that he has a different opinion than mine?
“[O]ur young adults are responsible before God to make their own choices. They are responsible to choose their vocation, marriage, partner, and place of residence.”
Because we all are sinners, “every human relationship requires grace to survive.” How true this is! And how true that “we are tempted to think that our own way is the only way. We’re really convinced that we really do know best.” We should know best, of course! But when we are in the midst of a conflict, hearing the clashing of opinions, it is pretty hard to take a deep breath and say, “I will think more about what you are saying. I will give it a thought, pray about it, and we can talk more about it later.”(Note: Don’t just say these words to appease the moment, actually go and give a thought to what she thinks, pray about it, and pursue a follow-up conversation)
And there is no better way to end this chapter, and to enter this new stage in which there are so many practical applications, than with “the power of forgiveness and grace we have been given in the gospel.”
The three questions at the end of the chapter are meant to make us think, to draw us to the Word, to prayer… and most likely to converse with our own husbands and, in some cases, we will be drawn towards our own children to ask them forgiveness.
A note on question number three: This question talks about our marriages and asks us what kind of concrete actions we should take to make our marriages “sing again.” Please, Friends, let’s resist the temptation to think that we have nothing to do to make our marriage better (that all the problems in our marriage are our “husband’s fault”. We need to be intentional about putting in practice all that we are learning, all that we are called to do.)
Now it’s your turn. What challenges did you find in these pages? Any particular quote that struck you hard, or one that gave you hope? Or, perhaps you have been walking through this road longer than the rest of us, if so, do you have a piece of advice, a word of encouragement for us? Share your thoughts here, in the comments.
Again, thanks for joining me in this book club.
Next Wednesday: Chapter Two: Before You Walk Out That Door…
*I learned about the importance of differentiating principles from methods from Pastor Douglas and Nancy Wilson’s talks and books (you can read a good article about this here).
***Feel free to grab and share the image with the bible verse/ quote.
I'm a ways down the “Mothering Adult Children” road than the rest of you. My oldest is a nephew who came to live with us when he was 8, my baby is 22. The day the oldest married at 21, my baby was 4 mos. old. I homeschooled the 3 youngest for 23 years. I've had children children and adult children (including 3 daughters-in-law) a long time. Transitioning out of all those years of on-site mothering, while establishing relationships with my boys' wives, has been a process that continues as my “baby” finishes college and either marries or moves out on her own.
The hardest thing for those of you with young children will be to remember that this book is about parenting adult children. No matter what we believe, we have no rights to demand anything from them. We will lose our influence, and possibly break relationship with them, if we try. We no longer have the control we had over them as they were growing up. How we handle our different opinions as adults will determine whether they will give us an opportunity to continue to speak wisdom and truth into their lives.
I do believe there is a difference in how we parent our unmarried adult sons and adult daughters. My husband and I encouraged our sons to be much more independent at an earlier age than we have our daughter. All our boys were married or on their own out of college. Our daughter is taking her time finishing college – but she hasn't been allowed to just live a life of ease under her father's roof. If she wasn't taking classes, she had a job and has been responsible for paying for many of her expenses. Now that she is in college full-time while living at home, she still has responsibilities, but just as when she was working, she is given the freedom to be an adult – to come and go as she pleases without telling us where she is at every moment. However, she is respectful and our relationship is one of mutual trust. She usually makes wise decisions and learns from those that aren't. The one thing I've learned is that when she engages us in conversation about something she is considering, that is when she is wanting our advice, and that is when I need to listen – carefully.
I'm sure that we will dig deeper into many of these issues as we make our way through the book, but from what we've read so far, I'm pleased with what the author's have said – especially about our marriages.
Hi Becky, I have not quite completed chapter 1, hope to do so today. Anyway, I have come to realize that our adult children will all want differing levels of “involvement”. Some will be very independent in wanting to make their own choices and I agree with the author that we must let them do this, even if it's painful. ( I am not referring to engaging in sin which should be confronted, no matter what the response). Others will want to “check in” about lots of decisions/thoughts. I believe we will have different ways of relating to each of our adult children, wisdom comes in figuring out the best way.
Hi dear Becky! Thanks for hosting this discussion group, my friend! As a mom of children who range in ages from 18 to 1, I'm just beginning this journey, and I'll be on it for quite some time. I appreciate what the authors had to say about remembering to keep your marriage relationship central. I did find the section on parental control or friendly influence a bit confusing, and I would have found it helpful to define “adult.” “If we want our children to mature into responsible adults, we've simply got to let them make their own choices and then learn from those decisions. We cannot (and should not) force them to follow our will–even when we know we're in the right.” I understand this in regard to a child who is now married, or a child who is living on his own, but there are certain things that aren't negotiable in my mind even with an adult child living at home. For example, if my 19 year old decides he wants to stop going to church, well, that's not an option while he's in our home. I did disagree with the author's view of daughters and sons being treated the same when adults and would say that Tracy's thoughts about that echo mine perfectly. The section on extending grace to our adult children was spot on. How much grace I want them to extend to me! How blessed we are when repentance and forgiveness are the norm in our homes. I think another truth that this chapter reinforced for me was to examine my heart and pray that there would be found no deceit in my parenting, no holding on when I need to let go, and that I would be diligent to pray for grace and more grace to honor Him in this season.
Hi Becky! Thank you so much for recommending this book. It seems like it has a lot of wisdom to offer for the years ahead on a much-needed topic. We are just entering into this phase of life now, so I have a lot to learn. I heartily agreed with the introduction and all that was said regarding twixters and parents who won’t let go of their children and how unhealthy this is. I enjoyed the first chapter and especially found the section on parental control helpful. As our oldest daughter has just turned 18, I am realizing that we need to begin encouraging her make her own decisions and focusing more on listening rather than offering advice.
Although I agree that we do not need to be controlling with either our daughters or sons and encourage them toward make their own decisions and developing independence, I will say that I disagree with them about daughters being treated the same as sons. I realize there are exceptions to this and certainly many examples today where this is abused and carried too far, but I believe daughters do require more protection than sons and that both of them ideally should be under their parents’ authority regarding marriage.
Doug Wilson seems to be pretty balanced about all this and in his book, Her Hand in Marriage, he states, “Children are under their parents’ authority in the matter of courtship; this is particularly true for daughters during courtship. We have also seen the scripture how sons leave and daughters are given.” …”The father will grant or withhold that permission. Obviously, if he is a godly father, he will never make such decisions arbitrarily, or capriciously, or without consulting his wife and daughter.” Certainly if there was a case of abuse or unbiblical expectations from either a daughter or a son, I would be in agreement that that the adult child would need to take a stand against a parent. As with most things, I think the key is balance and discernment. * I have never participated in a book discussion online, so I hope this comment isn't inappropriately long! 🙂
“every human relationship requires grace to survive”… Only her grace!!!