My oldest daughter, Nia, graduated from college in May. I find myself in this surreal place in my life where I have a child who is now outside of my control. Not that I’m a very controlling parent, mind you; but now she’s truly capable of making her own decisions and not factoring in my perspective. There’s no more “because I said so.”
Now, what we thought she was going to do after college, go to graduate school for music therapy, isn’t what she’s doing. Less than a month before graduation, she called me one morning, as I was getting ready for work.
“Mom.” Not the upbeat “Mom!” or the anxious “Mom?” – the flat, about-to-be-what-she-thinks-I’ll-think-is-bad-news, “Mom.” I sink to the bed, deflating. “Thinking about going to grad school sends me into a full-fledged panic attack. I can’t do it. I’ve been afraid to tell you, but not telling you was giving me more anxiety. I think I need help.”
The realist in me went straight to the practical, fundamental needs zone and talked her through managing this process in small pieces. First, find a job for the summer. Then, find a job you really like that has benefits while you sort all of this out. One step at a time, small pieces, I told her; not the whole thing at once.
As I’m saying the words, my own spiral began. I’m able to say the words to her, but inside, I’m freaking out. After we hung up, I sat and stared out the window at my magnolia tree. Where did I go wrong? What did I not do? Was I too laid back? Or perhaps I was too hard her when she was younger? I fell prey to something I thought I’d never do: I lost trust in her. I lost faith in her, in myself, and in God.
After a few weeks went by, and she graduated, I thought I would feel better about her decision. I didn’t. So, I did what I could do. I kept in touch with her. I helped her job search. I told anyone I could think of who could help or encourage her to get in touch with her. Most importantly, I asked people to pray for her.
As I’ve said in other posts, my kids getting older prompted me to go deeper into prayer, meditation, and solitary contemplation. I’m much more intentional about prayer, and I’m much bolder about asking other people to pray for her. I used to feel like it was selfish to ask others to pray for my family or me for anything other than illness or injury.
But the more I understand prayer, and what God wants for us as we walk through our lives, the more I believe that God invites conversations about any good intention we have for our loved ones. It’s perfectly appropriate to ask others to join in petitioning God to work in the lives of those we care about most. The more I invite prayer for her, and the more I pray for her, the stronger she feels.
Many hikes later, the result of my directed prayer and meditation about my parenting of Nia brought me back to trusting and believing in God’s plan for her. God continues to help me understand that I’m not always going to be at the forefront of Nia’s formation.
Both deep down and on the surface, Nia’s faith in herself never faltered. She trusted herself enough to make the difficult decision that has her exactly where she belongs.
Nia’s strong foundation in the church, and her own deep, personal faith, gave her the capacity to receive God’s blessing of being able to see herself more clearly. I pray that I continue to see her through her lens, not mine.
How does parenting an adult child grow you?