How to Mother Adult Babies Better
One never stops being a mother, even when she has adult babies. I am writing this at 30,000 feet. My oldest daughter, Maggie and I are flying home from a visit with my youngest biological son, Luke aka the Hippie Baby.
He lives and works at an Ashram. He teaches Ayurvedic classes, yoga, and… other stuff. Look, I love Jesus. I raised my first batch of children as Christians. They know what I believe. And while this will meet with some “tsk tsks,” one thing the Eastern believers have right is Karma. Criticize my folly, my life, my parenting, and prepare to find your child barefoot in the mountains chanting “Shanti, Shanti, Shanti…”
You’ve been warned.
Luke was my hardest child. From the moment his lungs hollered his arrival, he struggled. Born with a broken clavicle and a miscarried twin, he sought something, anything for comfort. For years we grieved that which we could not give our boy, peace.
He has found it.
I would be lying if I did not struggle on this trip. In my bones, I believe Jesus. In my heart, I know I don’t get to decide what my adult babies will believe. And, all I have asked of them now, is to respect my beliefs and I will respect theirs.
And I do. I respect that Luke is convicted, motivated, passionate, and riddled with peace. I could have met with him for 72 hours and spent his birthday weekend arguing all that I feel he is missing. But, honestly, he didn’t appear to be missing a single thing.
Which, was a personal struggle for me, as I have been struggling in my faith. We are in a hard season, I question why God has not answered me.
Alas, I cannot quit the God of my heart. I like Him too much.
I attended a temple service at the Ashram. My mind was buzzing with altars to foreign gods and songs that meant nothing to me… and everything to my son. Later at lunch, my daughter commented, “Luke, do you think one of the draws to this practice is the similarities between this and Catholicism?”
My four “originals” were raised under a strict catholic regime. One we abandoned after my mother-in-law passed and I fell into the arms of Grace. And Luke answered, “absolutely.”
Which I could have interpreted as “look mom you shoved pomp and circumstance, law and ritual so fiercely down my throat… I might be a Buddhist.”
But I didn’t, I didn’t argue and I didn’t panic. I don’t believe I failed my children in conveying one Truth. My failure was believing I could dictate who they would become and what they would believe.
And, I am glad I failed at that.
I didn’t give birth to robots. Nor, did I open my home to orphaned robots. These are humans. And before them is a road, I cannot control.
So in every meditation session where I was not supposed to think, I was instead thinking about not thinking about thinking. I had to chant, “I release these babies to your perfect plan. I am a daughter. These children are my brothers and sisters in Christ…”
I prayed I would see my mistakes, my misunderstandings. And I napped and did yoga, napped some more and prayed some more. And then, the last night of our visit we drove from the Ashram to a pizza joint in a small town in the canyon.
We toasted Luke’s birthday, peace and joy, and ate gourmet pizza and marinated olives.
And that is when the stories began.
Maggie and Luke recounted memory after memory from their youth. If I had a single motherly claim to fame, it is my adult babies’ love for each other. Truly, they are all best friends. But I cannot give you that formula. They just love each other.
Some of the stories were exaggerated. The adult babies claim my husband, Justin and I forced them to dust and mop every Saturday. I would bet my life this is inaccurate. They laughed about the trouble they got into and out of. And they told old stories of ER visits, daily mass, laughter, loss, and love.
And then, Luke said something that left Maggie and me speechless, a rare feat. He said, “I will always remember how much mom loved planes.”
I queried, “AIRPLANES?!?!?”
And he said, “Yes! I remember you loved airplanes. And I remember you were always pointing them out to us, everywhere we went.”
As I mentioned, I am composing this mid-flight. I am hopped up on Xanax because I cannot even park my car at an airport without being sedated.
I hate to fly. And I have no interest in planes. Like, none.
And yet, Luke recounted stories from his past with a mother obsessed with sky travel. Maggie lobbied, “What is wrong with you??? Mom hates to fly?!?!”
Luke volleyed, “No? She doesn’t?!? She loves to fly and she was always showing us planes and could name the type!”
Hmmm. Okay, we lived close to an air force base. I could decipher a C-130 and a B-1B. I guess, maybe if one was landing I would mention this? But I have no memory of EVER DOING THIS.
This conversation turned into more obscure revelations about their childhood, ones I cannot authenticate. With tears rolling down our laugh-fatigued cheeks, Luke told stories from his perspective about being raised by a mother as legendary as Amelia Earheart.
Turbulence, sends me reeling. Take-offs are my torment. Landings are my nemesis. And, I have been known to cry in many an airport bathroom stall, bar, duty-free shop, and shoeshine stand.
And now, at a cruising altitude, I cannot process and don’t want to, I am flooded with life on the outside. The outside of self that is. Most likely, this post will be read by a few who will pity my situation, and most definitely, I will get an ugly email denouncing my casual take on a grown child rejecting truth. Although, before you tell me off, I should mention, you don’t know my son’s heart. You don’t know what he knows, what he will know, or where this journey will take him.
You are welcome to tell someone else off, they might be more receptive than I.
All that said, I have a defining moment in my childhood, and it does involve planes, my hatred of them. I was 9 when my family had moved from Farmington, New Mexico to Hobbs, New Mexico. The move was hard on me. I had a very good friend in Farmington, she lived right next door to me and we were inseparable. When we moved we brought our two cars down and my dad made arrangements for me and him to fly back to Farmington to see my best friend for a couple of days and retrieve his motorcycle.
He bought us two plane tickets. The airport in Hobbs was tiny, which meant a tiny plane and a connecting flight in Albuquerque to another tiny plane bound for Farmington. The thirty-minute flight to Albuquerque just nearly killed me. I was green. It was a nightmare and I threw up the entire flight. Upon landing my dad carried me to a rental car counter and rented a car, losing the money on the plane tickets. I was too weak to thank him.
We headed out of the airport on a 5-hour drive to Farmington.
I was quiet most of the ride, which as I may have mentioned was entirely out of character. And, I remember thinking my dad was probably quite irritated with me. When I started to get some color back my dad stopped at Schlotzsky’s, our favorite sandwich shop. We ate and talked about my new school and how excited I was to see my friend. When it was time to go I went to the restroom. When I came back, my dad was gone.
I sat at the table looking around, wholly convinced, he had abandoned me. It would make sense. He could probably make it back to the airport, fly to Farmington and get his motorcycle and not have to mess with a child that was prone to all forms of travel sickness.
I tried not to cry.
And I contemplated phone numbers of relatives who might save me. I couldn’t think of a single one, a phone number that is. Reflecting, I remember feeling complacent panic. Truly, who could blame someone, like my dad, wholly adventurous and fun-loving, having his fill of a vomitous brat who debunked his efforts for a fun-filled week-long caper?
I stared out the window of the sandwich shop. Which way was north? Nine is too young to hitchhike, right?
And then, from around the side of the building came my dad. The men’s restroom in Schlotzsky’s was out of order and he had gone into the convenience store next door so we could get on the road.
The rest of the trip was a blast. The two-day motorcycle ride back to Hobbs is one of my most favorite childhood memories. But I always remember, for a moment, I believed my daddy could have his fill of me.
Curious, my dad would do anything for me. And yet, I doubted him, fiercely.
Which brings me to all the perceptions and parenting myths that I have held tightly, unable to see things from the other side. And with children aged 5 to 24, I know there are things I can teach them, stories I will read to them, and they might still not know everything about me. They might doubt me, and they sure might misunderstand everything that makes me tick.
And as I visited with my adult babies in an Ashram in Colorado, so many thoughts assaulted me.
The first being, I wasn’t as wise at 20 and 24 as Maggie and Luke are. They are able to have discussions, disagree, and debate, and they don’t feel threatened by the other’s views.
The second was this, neither of them wholly agree with my beliefs or each others’. And why would they? Just because they were raised in the same house with the same parents and the same beliefs, their lives have dealt them varied successes and hardships. I feel confident I equipped them with some decent life skills, but I don’t get to control when or where they will implement them.
Furthermore, when I was 20 I was newly married and a brand new Catholic. When I was 24 I had 2 babies and was teaching Freshman seminar at Methodist University.
It would be another 22 years before I could confidently say, “I love Jesus. And I don’t love Him out of habit or fear, I love Him because I know Him. Grace is everything.”
The point? Well, give me a break, my best writing is done somewhere below sea level. The point is simply this, my kids are wholly a part of me… and wholly apart from me. I did my best, and I did my worst. I would never leave them at a sandwich shop and I doubt I will ever enjoy air travel. But their perceptions, their fears, their doubts, their seeking, finding, coming and going, are covered by my prayers. The God of my heart knows their names and He will not leave them or forsake them.
This is the Parent we can trust.
Without a word, without an ounce of irritation, He methodically cares for us and our children. He knows when we can’t face the plane ride and it is time to rent a car. And while it seems He might have stepped out of sight, He will never abandon us or them.
I know, I know the worries of seeing our adult babies veer off from what we know to be the only answer and our whole truth. But I also know, this is just the beginning. When they were three, I taught them about please and thank yous. They knew about stranger danger and their ABC’s. They remember that stuff. I am just positive all of my kids, except Luke, know my distaste for air travel, you can’t make me go to an air show, don’t try. And I fully believe, they will find the truth and they will be set free.
They will continue to love well. And they will always be loved.
What I love about my adult babies is that they are seekers and thinkers. They are individuals with passions and convictions, some I don’t share and some I wholly embrace, and learn from. I am not sure who was supposed to tell young mothers about the struggle of watching adult babies find their own footing, but I will say, I am enjoying watching them blossom.
And while this is not necessarily an advice blog, I would like to offer this, don’t hold so tightly to what you know, you aren’t willing to listen to what they are learning. I try and remember what it feels like to have encountered fresh wisdom only to be treated like a fool. And I think it serves our relationships with our adult babies to know, just like when they were learning to walk, they will stumble. Falling down means getting back up. If not for the trial, there would never be triumph.
And the best piece of advice ever?
There is nothing worse than a Pharisee. The only people Jesus didn’t want to hang out with were the people who judged harshly and falsely professed their wisdom and piety. I wholly believe that the best I can do for my adult babies is to listen to them. To respect their journey and really hear what they have to say.
The landing gear is going down, no one tell Luke, this is the part where I cower into a ball and sob quietly… I wouldn’t him to question what he knows to be true.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
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