One of the many new dimensions of our midlife, The Back Forty, is the necessity to parent differently. I’ve practiced this a great deal over the last several years, as my son went from 17, with an appropriately growing voice in how his life goes, to now being 22.
I was an “involved” parent all through his growing up. Following a divorce when he was 2½, I focused my half-time custody on all the typical things a dad and son would do as he grew: YMCA Indian Guides, AYSO soccer, YMCA swimming (first Guppy, then Minnows, then Sharks), Tai Kwon Do (first Tiny Tigers, then…)…moving as he got older into Cub and Boy Scouts, geckos, rats, fencing, and persistent video game systems (Gameboy, Nintendo, X-Box). Not to mention church on Sundays where he took classes over the course of 12 years. My involvement and guiding direction of my son’s life was strong.
From age 2½ to 7 or so, my parenting was pretty default: play, learn, discipline with timeouts when necessary…but all fairly easy and without thought. Around that time, however, I went through a custody suit lasting a couple years. One of the many blessings that came out of that whole process (from a Back Forty INFUSE Program perspective) was a more conscious study of parenting.
Parenting was different now than in the days of my simple, country upbringing. Plus, I lived in California, in many ways a far-cry skewed mentality than that of my Texas roots. Having come to California specifically for consciousness reasons, I was always on the touchy-feely side of most things anyway. Still, when California new-age consciousness and attitudes about the raising of indigo/millennial/Gen Z individuals come together, parenting looked a lot like coddling to my tainted eyes.
Upon moving out of the parents’ house, however, parental views about how to relate to “adult” kids differ… especially among divorced parents. My own (right or wrong) basic stance was “If you’re going to school, I’m supporting you (financially). If you’re not, I’m assuming you want/need to learn about life…so I’ll support you in that too by letting you support yourself.”
I’ll relieve you of the litany of differences of opinions and challenging interactions a stance like that can take – both with adult child and ex – and yet something became very clear: I needed to find a new way to relate to my son…
To be continued…
Read Part 2 here.