First Inspiration – Deuteronomy 33-34: Understanding Being the Parent of Adult Children
Moses climbed Mount Nevo, from which point he could watch as the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
He blessed each of the tribes of Israel, het Moses was forbidden by God to enter the land together with his people. He had led them out of slavery in Egypt and through the Sinai, fighting to raise a generation of free people who no longer remembered what slavery was like. He had had to fight the tendency of some of those who had left Egypt with him to run back to their slave-masters in fear of the freedom that lay ahead. In slavery there was a predictable future; in freedom there was not. He had to fight to release them from the idol worship culture they had absorbed over the centuries in which they resided with the Egyptians and reacquaint them with the monotheism of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph.
The part that struck me most was what I imagine was the bitter-sweet ache that must have accompanied this experience for Moses: the joy of watching his people enter their land free and independent and the simultaneous gut wrenching pain at his inability to go with them.
This made me think about my relationship with my adult daughters. While raising them, I felt that our lives were intermingled in the most intimate of ways. Now, as adults, they had to cross their own “River Jordan” and I could only watch from my own Mount Nevo.
I no longer had the same place in their lives. When they were children and adolescents, I had a central role to play in their lives, guiding them into adulthood as best I could. Many parents have their own parents who provide advice and support as God did for Moses. I, however, did not have that luxury and had to figure it all out for myself. I did well, I think, in spite of the mistakes I made. Perhaps if I had read and reflected on this verse when my girls were children, I may have thought to look for a parent substitute for myself. But we are always smarter in retrospect.
In any case, from this verse, I understood that my role as parent to adult children is to watch from the sidelines and cheer them along and join them only whenever they may invite me. It is no longer my place to share in their lives to the same degree or kind as had been true years earlier.
One thing difficult about this is that, from my vantage point on Mount Nevo, I can see things my kids cannot. They do not want my warnings, however, unless they specifically seek my advice. They cannot make use of my perspective and insist that their own perspectives give them wisdom enough. I need to learn how to stay in place and be for them the parent that they each need and not necessarily the parent I fantasize myself to be.
This may seem obvious to many parents of adults, but this was, and still is, a hard lesson for me.