The Generations-it’s complicated

If you have children you know what a tricky, arduous, expensive, time consuming and rewarding time you have bringing them up. You know all about the sleepless nights, nail-biting anxiety, frustration and overwhelming pride you gain from their foibles and achievements. When they are small you are always looking forward to the next stage, the next milestone and ultimately their leap into independence. It is easy to imagine that your responsibility will have been despatched. You will be able to loll back and rejoice in the job well done [or gnash your teeth and regret the mistakes and neglect]. In any case it will be over and done with-or so you think.
Your relationships with your adult children are complex. Myself, I tend to draw from my own relationships with my parents in order to try not to replicate some of their behaviours.
Take gratitude, for instance. I don’t believe one’s children should be endlessly grateful for our having looked after them. After all, they didn’t choose to be born! They should certainly be polite, should thank us for a meal provided or a gift given-as they would to anyone, and will if you’ve done your raising task well; but they don’t actually owe us for their upbringing, for feeding, clothing and getting them educated, do they? Neither should they feel under any obligation to us in our old age. And this is where it can get problematic.
The fact is they know more, as adults than we can ever know. It is pointless to fantasise about ‘experience’. My father was a conservative eater, unable to contemplate anything as foreign and outlandish as pasta, even, and shuddering at the idea of a curry, claiming he’d been given it when in the army, during the Second World War. He’d learned everything about life there was to know. He did know quite a lot; but a great deal of it was redundant knowledge, irrelevant to the following generations.
I bow to my children’s superior knowledge. They know far more about the modern world than I can ever hope to. When they are together they like to reminisce about their childhood. This invariably involves some wry jesting about my parenting techniques. Apparently I used to insist they had some fruit [pear is often cited] before they were allowed ice cream. Neither of them now is especially fond of fruit, and neither of them will touch pear. I realise I must be responsible for this gaping void in their diets.
The best you can hope for as a parent of an adult is a cordial friendship with some affection thrown in; to help if requested, to refrain from advice, to be very admiring and not to expect anything in return. They may disown you, or they may treat you as an amiable buffoon. I seem to have achieved the latter. Which are you?

6 thoughts on “The Generations-it’s complicated

  1. It WAS pear! However, there was never any question of me opting for neither fruit nor ice-cream. I also now associate eye-drops with Maltesers. I don’t think I (I won’t speak for Son) have more knowledge than you, but perhaps my living in the modern world means that when you do return home we can find out whether there are all sorts of secret pockets on the laptop where it has hidden your work….

  2. The pears reminded me of the banana on the roof incident. Did son 2 think I would believe he had eaten the banana in his healthy lunch box if he threw it out his bedroom window onto the flat extension roof?
    Son 1 insisted on putting satnav on to drive me to my local town! This once baby who shared our bed, was demand fed, hardly slept, who we thought would never be out of nappies or detached from my breast had his own two babies on a strict routine, twelve hour nights in their own rooms – each generation swaps it all round, but most people grow up fine whatever their parents do! Mind you – I hope to be ready with advice when daughter has a baby…

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post. Maneuvering a relationship with an adult child can certainly be challenging. Letting go is the hard part for me. I still want to give advice to my 35 year old daughter. 🙂

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