For most baby boomers, the major part of parenting would seem to be past. But is it, really? Boomer and licensed mental health counselor Linda Herman doesn’t think so; she sees too much evidence that our kids keep needing us as role models, whether we know it or not.
We really are parents to the end.
Not only do we watch our kids carefully as they are growing up; they are watching us as well. In fact, they take note of our actions— even into adulthood. Case in point: advice columnist Amy Dickinson’s “Ask Amy.” Recently she responded to “Devastated,” the mother of two adult daughters living at home, who were crushed to learn that both she and her husband were cheating on each another. One daughter described it as feeling like they had been “punched in the face” with the first revelation of the cheating (Mom’s) and “knocked…out” with the second (Dad’s).
What happened here? In this day and age, shouldn’t the parents have the “right” to do as they please? Especially, once the kids are grown?
Perhaps, but actions are not without consequences.
“Devastated’s” letter is a reminder that we are always going to be role models in our children’s eyes. The critical factor, though, is the kind of models that we become. Children look to their parents for guidance as to how to behave. And they never stop looking, so be careful about what you are showing them.
Toddlers through teens throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. But they expect, and rightfully so, that their parents are not going to lose it along with them. (Although, truthfully, we sometimes do.) They get security knowing that while they may flake out, their parents will hold them in check. We set the standards for our kids when they are unable to do that for themselves, and we are their barometers about the world…its friendliness, its safety, or its lack of either.
Somewhere along the line, “Devastated” and her husband lost sight of the message they were sending to their daughters about the world and about themselves as parents. Does that mean that they should remain in a loveless union? Of course not. But how about demonstrating character to their offspring about how you extricate yourself from a situation that perhaps, for years, has not been working?
Yes, as Amy says, “Devastated’s” kids are getting lessons about the imperfections of being human. But, regardless of their ages, not only do our children want us to be proud of them, they want to be proud of us. We should behave in ways that make that possible.