This post’s title alone should begin a discussion! How many of us have adult children who have left the faith, or at least left the traditional practices of it? And how do we respond to that?
And even those of us whose adult children have not left the faith in any discernable way—we wonder if the years of prayer and training will keep them steady as their own lives unfold “out there” where we no longer exert control or protection.
A good parent wants her child to become independent. A healthy parent lets go when the time is right, rather than clinging to the former dynamic of parent caring for the child and giving direct guidance. We have seen and known parents who tried to exert their control long past when it was helpful—some of us have been that parent.
The question is: What form does my love take now? My child is an adult, and she or he needs my support and my love—I will always be Mom. But now that my role is not so directive or protective, what is it? What do I do?
We were looking for an author to write that book, and it turns out that we already had her. Jane Knuth has written two wonderful books for Loyola Press: Thrift Store Saints and Thrift Store Graces. Her daughters are grown now, and one of them, Ellen, spent five years teaching in Japan. We asked Jane to write a book about how to support the faith life of an adult child, and Jane suggested that she and Ellen write a book together about Ellen’s experience of being out of the usual context of her Catholic home and about Jane’s experience of being Mom to a young woman completely out of her reach except through letters and Skype.
They did not disappoint us! Love Will Steer Me True is a delightful story, told in the two voices of mother and daughter.
For now, I’d like to hear from those of you who have accumulated some wisdom about how we love our children after they are not children anymore.
- Which aspect of at-home parenthood has been the most difficult to give up?
- What have your adult children (or nieces and nephews or young adults outside your biological family) taught you about the spiritual life?
- What, in your earlier life with young people, has turned out to be a good practice to prepare them for adulthood?