05/22/2014 02:20 pm ET Updated May 23, 2014

The Things I Taught My Mom By Getting Old(er)

Isaac Saul

A few weeks ago, my mom said something like, "I've had to change the whole way I parent you guys."

"You guys" referred to me and my two older brothers, who basically spent the first 18 years of our lives raising as much hell as possible. But after thinking it over, I decided to re-visit the subject with my mom to see if she could really flesh out the ways she has changed her parenting style since we've grown old(er).

I found her responses both touching and hilarious, so much so that I couldn't help but share. It was a happy reminder that I just might have the best mom in the world, but that she also notices everything -- even the stuff she doesn't mention until I ask her to.

1. Even though I think I know what’s best for my kids, sometimes they know better than I do.

Children usually can't go a day without some parental guidance. Young adults, however, are sometimes better off without it. Just because you think you're right doesn't mean you always are.

2. I have to learn about them all over again -– while I still see them as my kids, they have changed and grown into people I don’t necessarily know.

Our children really do have a whole life outside of our home that we know nothing about. Take the time to find out who they are.

3. The fridge should be stocked before they come home; otherwise, they are shocked at the emptiness inside.

When you’re raising a family, the norm is a full fridge. Nothing stops an adult child cold like a trip to the fridge, only to find a yogurt, some carrot sticks and soy milk.

4. I have to sit back and let them make their own decisions -– even if I think it’s going to be bad. And I have to enjoy seeing them make good choices.

You could try and explain precisely why their latest plan makes no sense, but don’t waste your breath. Instead, hold out for their next success.

5. It’s okay for me to have an opinion about what they are doing -– but not okay to try to “manage” them.

We get used to organizing our children’s lives to keep them on point, and it’s a hard habit to break. But as they get older, bite your tongue if you don’t like the way your child is managing their affairs!

6. “Do you have plans for dinner?” translates as “will you cook dinner for me?”

When a friend asks me if I have plans for dinner, I usually get excited because I think I’m being invited out to eat. When it’s an adult child, it means I’m hitting the kitchen.

7. I have to share my life with my kids so that they can share theirs with me.

What’s better than a two way conversation? If we want our children to talk to us, we have to be willing to participate. Once they’re older, it’s okay to tell them things that were inappropriate before.

8. I don’t have to be in “parent” mode all the time -– I can be myself, have ups and downs and feelings, too.

We shield our children from the daily struggles we go through in order to give them a sense of security and a safe place at home. Adult children need to know that we are people, too.

9. I don’t have to try and fix everything for them – they can (and should) do it for themselves.

When our kids were young, we were always there to fix things for them: forgotten lunch, missed school bus, parking tickets, travel arrangements, etc. While it may be easier for them to still call mom and ask her to do it, they will function better in the world if we leave it to them.

10. They turn up for dinner on the night you are eating eggs, and are no-shows when you have prepared a three course meal.

In an empty nest, it’s often easier to make eggs for dinner or throw together a sandwich. Nothing horrifies an adult child more than to pop in at dinner time and find out there is nothing on the stove. On the other hand, there could be a gourmet meal hitting the table, but if a better offer comes along, adios!

11. Even though they are adults, they still need their Mommy sometimes (thankfully).

Everyone needs to come home once in a while and be taken care of.

12. No judgment!

Whatever you think about your child’s choices, keep the love flowing.

13. It is healthy for them to go off and have a life separate from me, even if it hurts.

We try to teach them to be independent and to follow their dreams, but then they do and we are sad that we never see them. Don’t set up a doube-standard: enjoy their independence.

14. It’s hard not to be needed. On the other hand, we never really stop needing our parents. It’s just in a different way.

The 20’s are a time for making the break from your parents. Usually in your 30’s you realize your parents may actually have something to offer -– even if it is just babysitting.

15. They drink all your wine/beer/alcohol if left home alone.

Just don’t expect to come home from a week’s vacation and find the bottle of wine you have been thinking about all the way from the airport.

16. While they will always be the most important people in my life and the center of my attention, I have to figure out how to have a life on my own, too, just like they do.

We will always be parents first, but it’s important to restructure our lives so that we can let our children move on with theirs. We need to find new ways not only to define ourselves but to enrich our lives.

17. It’s important to let them know you think they are doing a good job, that you love them, that you like them and that you support them -– because no matter whether you are 6 or 60, you still care what your mother thinks.

The power of unconditional love cannot be underestimated. Give it freely and often.

18. Be gracious when the girlfriend prances out of the bedroom to join you for coffee in the morning.

Smile and hope she is making your child happy.

19. Never go into their bathroom, and if you do, do not look at the bathtub/shower.

The only thing worse than looking in the shower is feeling compelled to clean it. Hopefully, at some point a need for cleanliness will kick in.

20. Expect them to do laundry at your house -– even if they live elsewhere.

It’s always easier for our kids to do laundry at home, especially if they can ask us to “throw it in the dryer” so they can go out with friends.

21. Don’t expect them to pick up when you call. If you get a callback, it's a major win.

Cell phones have changed the dynamic of calling your children: it’s way too easy for them to ignore the call. A call back within 24 hours is a major accomplishment -– feel good about yourself.

22. Never, under any circumstances, comment on anything they have posted on social media.

Not only will your children be humiliated if their mother comments on their night of abandon, documented by photos, but parents should never acknowledge that they are stalking online in the first place.



Parenting Confessional