Posted by: kathyseal | September 13, 2008

Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks writes today about anticipating her soon-to-be empty nest as her third daughter starts her senior high school year and her 19-year-old moves into her own apartment — and calls Sandy four times for help cooking  stir-fried chicken! 

What’s interesting is that Sandy berates herself momentarily: “What kind of mother have I been,” she asks herself, ” if my nearly-grown child can’t figure out how to use a wok, knife and wooden spoon to prepare a simple chicken dinner?”

How quickly we moms criticize ourselves!

Fortunately Sandy calls three friends who set her straight. They laugh, because it’s so much easier to be objective about your friends’ feelings than your own: ” She’s cooking, one said. What’s wrong with that? She’s calling you, said another, whose son went off to college and dropped off the map. What she doesn’t know, she’ll learn, shrugged a third.”

It’s lovely that Sandy’s daughter called her for recipe help. There’s no rule #356 (a) in the Perfect Parenting Manual that says “Children must leave the nest thoroughly self-sufficient!”  In fact, as one of Sandy’s friends points out, it’s nice if they stay connected to us, and finishing up the cooking tutorial is certainly one way to do so.  Yet Sandy –and I love her honesty — leaps right into the self-critical breach.  I wonder if that’s because this new stage of  “Connecting to Our Adult Children”  (as my friend Barbara, a psychotherapist calls it) is so unexplored. None of us wants our kids to disappear into adulthood, yet we want them to be competent and self-sufficient. We don’t want our adult kids to depend on us too much — but can we expect them to be totally independent?  Tell me where the book is that blazes this new parenting path! I don’t think there is one.

Maybe we want our kids to stay emotionally close to us but at the same time to become increasingly capable and competent in the world. Maybe their independence is a work-in-progress that we’re supporting, just as we did when they were younger, only now their tasks are increasingly those of an adult. They’re no longer  learning to tie their shoes and learn  how to write a term paper, but they’re learning how to find a job, earn a living, and have friends to dinner.

Bravo to you Sandy for being so honest about your parenting feelings. And bravo that your daughter trusts you and feels close enough to call you for your advice. You must have nurtured her well, and she wants to create that same cared-for feeling for herself in her own apartment. Maybe you can pat yourself on the back for a parenting job well done.



  1. I agree with Sandy’s friends and Kathy’s insights. As a mother of a 13 yr. son, I struggle with what constitutes small and large stakes. When it comes to our adult children, they need to know that it is still safe to ask for help without losing their independence, and that, we, as parents can feel guilt-less about connecting about real life issues. Thank goodness for friends!

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