Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sigh: Being the Parent of an Adult

Jordan called from Israel today. We have spoken to her twice since she left last week. The first time was when she landed.
“Hi mom. I’m in Israel. Gotta go.”
The second was on the run from somewhere to Jerusalem.
“Hi mom, I’m checking into a hotel. Oh my God it’s called the Park Plaza!”
For those of you who have been in Boston you may be familiar with that hotel. It was a very brief exchange.

I’m sure I mentioned (about 100 times but you know how I go on and on) that she is on a trip which is paid for by an organization called Birthright Israel. They invite young people (18-26) with at least one Jewish parent, or a facimile thereof, to visit Israel for 10 days. It is quite amazing and I would encourage everyone who can do this to sign their child up. My friend Steve says the Irish would do this but the kids would spend too much time in the local pubs.

Today she called to ask if we had been on the website and seen the pictures of her travels. And did we want to e-mail her because, we could do it through this site. I confessed I hadn’t either e-mailed her nor had we seen the pictures because we hadn’t known about the site. Needless to say, we immediately went to the site to see what we could see. Here is the link if you want to share in our joy.

Jordan (r.), Jeremy (c.) and another unknown Birthright kid (l.)

It’s hard to be the parent of a grown-up. I’m not sure but I don’t think it’s easier to parent an adult. When your children are little you can pretty much determine what you want them to do. When it comes to food you simply ask do they want peanut butter or tuna fish. (My personal favorite). You buy the clothes you want them to wear and they do not start to complain until they see that other children are not dressed like Anne Taylor or Mr. Brook’s brother. You can teach them many things, like how to ride a bike or to look both ways when they cross the street. And you can pray that they don’t fall off or get run over. You can let them ride on a bus or a subway and stealthily follow behind at a safe distance until you are sure they arrived at the intended destination. Oh sure, you can insist they not drink and drive and you can take the keys to the car away if they disobey. But when they are adults the issues become much more complicated. There is no “do this, don’t do that.”

If they are in college you might still be paying the bills but when they are home for vacations you are not allowed to ask questions about where they have been nor are you permitted to discuss a curfew. You dance around with things like “So what’s your plan for the evening?” or “We’ll be home by midnight should we lock the door?”

You are probably footing the bill for room, board and tuition, but you never ask a question about grades. You may be paying their health insurance but you are not supposed to talk to their doctor – about anything. When they are in the mood to share intimacies you are supposed to feel honored (which I do) and when they are not in a bonding mode, you are not permitted to ask questions about their personal angst.
Even with the middle of the night feedings and the schlepping paraphernalia to whatever the destination, and the driving to dance and soccer and music and drama, it was still easier than not being able to ask simple questions about life plans.

Well, I’m through whining now. The truth is that I miss all the time we spent together. It’s hard to be on the outside of her life when I was always part of the center. It’s important to back off and maintain distance when you still want to be part of the core. I love that she called and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on at home. And little by little I will adjust to whatever my role in her life will be. But I often wish it was as simple as tuna fish or peanut butter. We’re just sayin...Iris


Walt said...

Birthright is a great program. Almost got hired to photograph it about 6 years ago, but I was underbid by an Israeli photographer. Sigh, their dayrates are so much lower than ours.

Well anyway, at least Hillel hired me to photograph 6 years of their annual report. Much fun with the young adults. No parents involved.

And Steve, what's wrong with the Irish-American youth spending time in the local pub? It's were the life of the town happens. Pubs in Ireland are not like bars in the US. A pub is where you learn the Irish music and the High Art of Irish story telling. The last thing one does in an Irish pub is get drunk. Though they don't serve peanut butter or tuna.

A pub is the Irishman's Walling Wall. Grin.

Walt said...

Opps, that's "Wailing Wall."

I always kill a good joke 'cause I didn't go to Ireland till too late to learn story telling. Double Grin.

Iris&David said...

Walt.. that could be the best phrase turned in the 10 month of the Blob:
".. a pub is the Irishman's Wailing Wall..." that one goes down for the ages...


Me said...

My son is 5 months old, and this just made me cry. He loves when I walk through the door of his daycare to pick him up. He giggles when I change his diaper. He smiles so big when he's done with his bottle. I am loving every minute of it, and while I look forward to seeing him grow up, it already makes me sad to think one day I won't be the center of his life.