Boundaries with Adult Children


Boundaries with Adult Children

     I hate to nag. I hate being a “helicopter parent,” hovering over my adult child. But I’m a Jewish mother, and these patterns are hard to change.

     People say I need to establish boundaries. I think my son needs to establish boundaries with me. He doesn’t invade my privacy. He doesn’t give me unwanted advice. He keeps my house neat and clean. He does call me too often and always wants to know my whereabouts. When I move back to the Valley for the winter, this is going to change as I assert my independence. Do I allow him to asset his independence?

     I know what’s best for him. I can see the big picture. I know what his priorities should. The problem is it does no good for me to dictate these things. I know he needs to discover them for himself and make his own plan of action but I could save him so much time and effort!  And I’m footing the bill for the food, health insurance, gas, car, cell phone, etc.

     It is really hard to let go with an adult child who has made bad decisions in the past. I have lots of friends who are dealing with the same issue. I’m lucky that my son has been sober for two years. Others are dealing with children with addictions, children with mental illness, children in bad marriages, and children with bad financial habits.

     It’s not like this didn’t happen in my generation. My brother did move back in with my parents after college, and brought with him his girlfriend and a friend. They stayed with my parents, after graduating with honors from Cornell, and smoked pot all day. My mother was working full time and now had a houseful of guests for whom to provide. After a few months, she’d had enough. At dinner one night, she announced that everyone would have to take turns making meals and cleaning the house. My brother looked at my father, a macho man who considered himself a feminist although he never lifted a finger around the house. My brother said, “We will take our turns if Dad does, too.” And so the Women’s Liberation Movement was born in my family. Everyone shared the work. My father learned to vacuum, dust, wash pots and pans, do the laundry, and put the dishes in the dishwasher. He never did learn to cook. My parents did not require my brother et al to work or oay room and board. After another few months, my brother and his girlfriend moved to California and his friend stayed on and worked in my father’s store.

            I’ll be struggling this winter with how to let my son find his own way. I was able to escape to Munds Park during the summer and make believe I wasn’t yanking his strings. I’m already totally stressed out and I’m not even living with him yet. But I am determined not to nag.

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