Empty Nester – The Roller Coaster from Hell

Being the parent of adult “children” is equivocal to being locked into a roller coaster from hell.  While that may sound dramatic, there is a lot they don’t tell you about being the parent of adult kids.  Probably if they did tell us, no one would want to have kids.  But let me explain what I mean by roller coaster from hell:

  1. You’re stuck like Chuck on this thing.  Locked down tight, no escape on this journey of wonderful highs and screaming, scary ass fast traverses down that big hill.  In other words, you’re job as parent is over in the hands on sense.  You can offer suggestions, give advice, help out if asked but mainly you’re a helpless slob tied to a roller coaster you can’t control or stop.  Unless you disown your children or have some magical way to disconnect from worrying about them, it’s a powerless, scary and exciting ride.  Not all of it is negative of course.  Actually the positives usually outweigh the bad shit but it’s impossible for me to not worry especially if the weather is bad or your oldest is taking off for France for a month with her girlfriend who is working on a contract job.
  2. It’s a delicate balancing act, you’re always teetering on the edge of what to do and what not to do.  Or say.  You’re speeding toward a hair pin turn and you have to stay on track and not go off the fine line or you’re going to crash and break into a million pieces.  It’s hard to let go of wanting to guide them, protect them and keep them safe.  They have to live their lives and make their own mistakes, have their own adventures.  We get to be the bystander with no control, no real say just trust that your parenting has given them a good solid base and you always just have to let go.  Even when everything inside of you is terrified, you have to just cross your arms tight against your body and hug yourself.  You find yourself saying “please, please, please…” in your head a lot.
  3. Screaming in terror is only allowed when you’re on the coaster without the ‘kids’ around.  When they are present, you have to STFU, nod a lot, say “that’s cool” or “I’m so excited for you”.  You have to put aside your parental fears and concerns so you can be supportive of their dreams and adventures.  It gets exhausting.  I wish I could find a better way to let go but I think the instinct to protect your child is so deeply rooted in your DNA by then, it’s fighting nature.  This shit is hard.  Some of the hardest things I have had to do as a parent is to just keep my big ass mouth shut.  I have to really focus on how I would want my parent to act.  Put myself in my kid’s shoes.  Some days, all I want to do is crawl into bed and pull the quilt up over my head.  I’m getting better at this, but letting go even if your oldest is now 28 years old, is tough.  You’re still terrified of losing them.  That NEVER goes away.
  4. You feel like a dick because of everything you put your own parent(s) through.  You know they are laughing behind your back thinking, serves you right.  But then again, they are on the ride with you, these are their grandbabies.
  5. Some days you’re on the gentle kiddie coaster where life is calm and just going along at a reasonable pace with rolling hills.  Then there are days, you’re on the biggest baddest muther roller coaster in the world.  This coming Sunday, I drop my oldest off at the airport for her to start an exciting adventure in France for a month and I’m going to be crying the whole way home.  Actually, I probably won’t even get out of the airport.  Who knew there was so much crying in being the parent of adult kids?  Wasn’t this supposed to stop once they graduated high school or college?  Nope.  I’m excited for her, I really am.  This is a dream of hers to travel overseas and I’m proud of her for grasping the opportunity full force.  She’s braver than me.  At her age, I would have been worried about so much stuff that I would have talked myself out of the entire opportunity.  I’m grateful she has the balls to do something I wouldn’t.
  6. This ride doesn’t end until you die.  I don’t think you ever stop worrying.  My mom worried about me up until her last day.  I have a feeling she’s probably worrying about me in heaven too.
  7. Like everything in life that is worth having or living for, it isn’t easy.  It’s intense, scary, joyful, fun, rewarding, full of love and fear all at the same time.  It’s not all bad.  It’s probably most of the time a very fun ride.  But those lows seem to be very low as a parent.  There may not even be anything negative happening to your child but there you are, locked and loaded, riding along screaming or laughing depending on the moment.

Parenting no matter what stage you are in is not for the weak of spirit and heart.  Though I rarely see much written to parents of adult children so here is a bit for you.  The great part is there is a whole bunch of us strapped into the same coaster, we just need to reach out to one another for support and to know we aren’t alone.  I’m here, I’m listening and yeah it’s one crazy ride.   Say a prayer for me this next month that I don’t go all crazy and such.  I’ll be happy when March 30th arrives and my baby is back home but until then, I’m holding on for dear life.  Au revoir!

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