She chased me down in the empty church hallway. Her voice wobbled as she began to speak and a shift in her cadence alerted me that this was a conversation where I needed to stop hustling to the sanctuary. The worship service could wait.
“Jen, thank you for reminding me that we aren’t the only parents struggling in this season.” Her tears started falling. “I never envisioned this stage of mothering — parenting adult children — could be so lonely or that I’d ever be disconnected from one of my children. I’ve asked myself again and again, ‘Did we do something wrong? What can we do differently?’ Mothering guilt is so very painful and I’ve lost so much sleep over his choices.”
For the next thirty minutes, she bared her tender, mothering soul. We carved a connection that only comes when two people cast off appearances, acknowledge shared struggles, and hold each other’s cares with great compassion. I’ve learned when we enter delicate discussions with a quiet and humble heart, then tender conversations can heal instead of hurt.
She felt comfortable approaching me because a few weeks earlier I facilitated our Sunday School discussion on parenting adult children. The first week, our class hosted a panel of younger adults spanning ages from twenty-four to thirty-nine. We encouraged them to speak freely so we could better understand the generation we are parenting. They answered a plethora of dicey questions ranging from “Why do so many young people who were raised in the Church, turn away from the Lord?” to “As parents, we have blind spots, so discuss your best advice that we need to know.” (Their answers were so good! Treat them like adults because they are adults. Less lecture, listen more. Allow mistakes without micromanaging, and more valuable insights.)
The following week we continued the discussion among our peers and I started with C.S. Lewis’s reminder. “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” That is the reassurance we often need in parenting. We are not alone in this journey, yet our parenting stories are so personal. When our hearts splay open as our adult children make lifelong choices that we don’t have the freedom to share, we carry the burden in isolation. It’s understandable to feel a deep ache, but this is when we need each other most; we need mothering mentors to normalize this discussion.
As mommas, we spend over eighteen years comforting our kids and carrying their burdens, nurturing and negotiating their future, naming their pain alongside years of loving, and listening to and learning their hopes and dreams. We lean in and become professors of their personalities, and when we finally launch them to be their very best selves, we pray their biblical foundation propels them to the goodness and glory of the Lord. Yet for many in our Sunday school class, and I’m guessing for many of you too, we’re met with their faith resistance.
There’s a new tension in our hearts. We believe we know what’s best for them, right? (And oftentimes we do!) But while they’ll always be our babies, they’ve left our parental guardianship and are now accountable to the Lord. It’s time to listen more and lean into who they’ve become. It’s an ongoing season of releasing control and managing expectations. It’s a season of surrounding our adult kids in prayer and turning any worries, wonderings, and ‘what ifs’ about their future, their safety, and their choices to the One who knows and loves them best.
Using Colossians 1:9-12 as a model, Paul’s prayer for the church of Colossae is my heartbeat for our five adult kids. I personalize it with their name and pray specifics from this passage to their lives:
“And so, from the day we heard, have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Mommas, take a deep cleansing breath with me. Let’s unclench our fists, raise our open hands, and release our adult children to Him — our Abba Father, Healer, Rescuer, the One who takes this often topsy-turvy world and makes sense of it. Take Heart. He can and will do it!!
My prayer is that all of us will be able to proclaim, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).
What a day of rejoicing that will be.
Our children, their spouses, and our grandbaby are my greatest delight, yet I know the challenges many are facing. I’d be honored to carry this discussion/prayer into the comments.