A post bearing a strong resemblance to this one was first posted here in January 2009.
Play your cards right and your empty nest isn’t empty 100% of the time. Since we officially became empty nesters in May 2007, our nest has expanded from accommodating just me, David and our dog, to periods where 5 people lived here, then 4, then 2, then one configuration of 3, then 5, then a new configuration of 3 and now… back to me David and our new puppy. The key to success when coming together again, at home or on vacation, is replacing the old parent-child relationship with one that matches the new reality of who “the kids” have become.
Having our daughter and son, their significant others and/or their friends stay with us from time to time is a joy for which I am eternally grateful. It wasn’t that way for me visiting my mother. She and I were hopelessly stuck in a destructive gear. It wasn’t until the last year of her life, when she was terminally ill, that we finally figured out how to have a wonderful relationship… as two adults.
I didn’t want to wait until I was dying to make peace with my adult children. So I’ve worked hard to maintain a healthy relationship with them. The efforts have paid off, but it takes an ongoing commitment.
Since we’ve got no mind readers here and we don’t worship at the altar of “Grin and bear it,” whenever our kids come back to live temporarily or visit for more than 3 days, we call a family meeting and discuss everyone’s expectations and needs during the new arrangement. It usually boils down to two basics:
Parents: We want to feel like we’re all adults on the same team, sharing the shopping, cooking, and cleaning.
Young adults: We want to be treated like adults, not kids who need your input on how to live our lives.
Sounds like we’ve got a deal. That’s why I’ve stuck by this mantra: “Give teens/adult kids no unsolicited advice.” Why bother? They don’t want it. They won’t accept it. And they resent you for offering it. Want less resentment? Quit giving them advice. Good advice! But damnit I give advice for a living! Keeping my mouth shut when I’ve got a helpful suggestion is tough. It’s also be part of my yoga practice. Ohmmmm.
Here’s a holiday challenge for you, if you’re game… take a look at your relationship with each of your children. Now fast forward to a time when they will return, as young adults, to visit you for the holidays. What would you like to see your relationship develop into? What could you start doing today (or stop doing) that might help you reach the place you want to be with them when they grow up?
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!