You may wonder why Home Education is in the title – well, this is part of the education I am trying to give my children. They need to learn how to be parents whether they end up having biological, adopted, spiritual or no children.
There are not many aspects of life that are eternal. Marriage, for example is only “til death do us part.” The two aspects of life that are eternal are the priesthood and parenthood. Of course both of those things are about parenting. Being a parent is eternal, I assume, because God the Father is eternally Father and God the Son is eternally Son.
There seems to be a view even among Christians that being a parent ends at some arbitrary age of the child -16 seems to be the common one. After that the mum and dad can more or less shrug their shoulders and say, there’s nothing more to be done. As with all ideas that swing off badly in one direction there is the opposite bad swing in the other. So people phone in radio programs or talk among their friends about parents and parental in-laws who are too interfering and generally difficult to be around. I think I mentioned that trap in one of my brief thoughts on the order of marriage.
But if we accept that once we are parent then we are always a parent – what does that mean when the children are adults? I have three adult children aged nearly 22, 19 and 17. It is a terribly tough time in our culture to be those ages. They are adults who can make their own decisions, but their options are seriously limited by the economic climate and lack of opportunities. So, they must endure. But it also means they must continue to live at home. How then do we all adjust in the family home so that adult children can be adults, but parents are still parents? In some ways it seems to happen sort of organically. I think anthropologically we are designed to live in extended family situations. It is how so-called primitive people still live. In agriculture based cultures adult children were part of the running of the family lands. There were no “tweens”, “teens” or “emerging adults” back then. There were simply families with children and adults in them.
I assume there was some kind of shared responsibility for task, household and children, that made treating each person according to their needs perhaps somehwat easier.
There has been an unspoken “rule” that all children must be treated equally – meaning “the same”. I am not altogether sure where this idea came from, but it seems rooted in the ‘same-i-ness’ view that has taken over many institutions. By treating all men as equal, we must treat them the same. However, I am sure most parents when asked would acknoweldge that all children are not the same. They have different personalities, differnet needs, different developments. How then, can we treat them the same? Well, we can’t and we shouldn’t.
A few of us mums have talked about this issue and how we have seen it play out in families. We all have examples where treating children “the same” may have helped one child but enabled and given tacit permission to another to behave badly. For example; one adult child is struggling seriously with financies because of the current economy. The husband is doing his best to work whenever there is work – but there isn’t always work. Tbey budget sensibily and try to keep above water but it’s a shocklingly expensive country. So dad steps in and pays one of the scary bills. The other adult child is in full time protected employment with a spouse who also works and loves to shop for stuff – lots of it. Does the parent of these adult children hand over the same money to them; knowing it will be misused?
In another situation a son went to his parents for help. He had the budget and they couldn’t afford to eat. Now, instead of handing over money the parents insisted they made some very stringent cuts to their lifestyle – no car for example. To an observer this looked mean. The parents had the ability to help and it looked at first as though they wouldn’t. However they knew their son very well and knew he needed to take full responsibility for his family before they would help – or he would simply sit back and let them bail and bail. In the end they did bail – but only when it was truly needed and the adult child had learned not to expect a certain standard.
In some cases giving “the same” to adult children would be impossible. My friend comes to her daughter and stays four days a week, travelling quite some distance to do this because her daughter is ill. My friend cares for her grandchildren and helps with household tasks (all made more difficult for her at the moment as she has broken her arm!) She has another daughter and grandchildren there. She couldn’t possibly do the same for her – and that is fine because that daughter doesn’t need the help.
I also know another grandma who spends far more time supporting one child’s family than any of her other children. Why? Becuase they need it.
But then, you might wonder, how do you prevent jeolousy, envy and resentment from the adult-children who are not getting the same attention or financial support?
I am aware that the future needs of my adult children and of course the little ones, could be very different. My first admonition to them is that they should take care of one another. They are their brothers (and sisters) keepers. Now, don’t get the idea I am just trying to pass off my responsibilites as their mother. I’m not, in fact it is my responsibility to ensure they DO take care of one another. But they also need some discernment in doing so.
I’ll con tinue this later…