Lessons Learned From My Adult Children


Two adults drinking coffee.Twenty-seven years ago, I struggled with infertility.

I filled my head with idealized visions of my parenting plans should that day ever come. How I would teach my future child, or children, how to read, think, play, and so on. When my first child arrived in 1997 and then my second just a little over a year later in 1998, my visions quickly changed.

What I learned, and continue to learn, is that my children teach me as often as I teach them. Even more so now as young adults.

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” Franklin P. Jones

As a young mom, I prayed for patience.

I realize now that was a mistake. Praying for patience encourages God to provide us with situations requiring patience. Perhaps I should have prayed for a peaceful household.

Kidding aside, I learned many lessons about patience when my children were young. The teaching did not end when my children reached adulthood. I continue to learn patience from and with my adult children.

Patience as they make decisions about college and vocations. They may seek my counsel or guidance, but the choices are theirs to make in their time, not my own.

“We can’t be brave without fear.” Muhammed Ali

I never considered myself brave, I still do not. My children, on the other hand, showed how to be brave as young adults.

Two of my kids chose to attend college far from home, where they knew no one. One in an extremely competitive university environment and another as a college athlete. They chased their dreams, not without challenges and adversity, and I cheered them on from afar.

One daughter lived alone in London and Paris during Covid. In a lockdown type of environment, with human contact limited to daily phone calls with me and a monitored hour a day outside. I do not know if I could have done it.

I never lived alone.

Let me repeat that. I never lived alone.

I moved from my college home to a home with my husband, Brett, as soon as we married. Yes, during college.

Yet, my daughter thrived while learning so many lessons about herself.

My youngest daughter is discerning religious life in a convent. Yes, there are young nuns.

My daughter, who “doesn’t like big cities,” is living in a convent in a major, metropolitan city. She stepped out in faith into a wholly different world, full of silence and mission and self-sacrifice. I admire and support her courage in pursuing God’s call, while I cannot imagine myself doing it.

Courage in action.

“Diversity happens. Inclusion is a choice.” Harjeet Khanduja

Another lesson learned from my children involves their approaches to inclusion. Growing up in a home with a special needs sibling proved to be a training ground for acceptance of those who are different.

My kids extended this lesson beyond the inclusion of those with special needs to the inclusion of anyone who is different. Different in politics, race, religion, and so on. I learn, and continue to learn, about acceptance from my adult children.

On more than one occasion, when I commented thoughtlessly about someone in the news for a behavior or decision I disagreed with or did not understand, my kids questioned my words. More so, they encouraged me to reframe my thoughts to look at this person or situation with fresh eyes.

I naively thought I was an inclusive person because of my son Matthew, who is on the autism spectrum. However, I learned I have a lot to learn. Just because I do not agree with someone does not mean I should not make room for them at my table. There’s always room for one more at the table; their voice, their perspective might be just what I need to hear or see.

“To give and not expect return, that is what lies at the heart of love.” Oscar Wilde

Perhaps the greatest lesson imparted by my children is one of unconditional love. Young kids love parents even when they fail, just as we love our children when they fall short. We do not have to agree on everything to love and respect each other. My adult children do not always agree; however, they continue to love and support each other.

Yet, the best example of unconditional love they demonstrate is their love for their youngest sibling, Matthew. They loved him from his birth, but their love grew in his diagnosis.

Despite the many sacrifices they make and will continue to make, for him, they love him in the purest way. They see him, his pure and innocent heart, and they encourage him to be Matthew. They include him in their future plans when Brett and I are no longer able to care for him.

That’s a lot for folks in their twenties, with their whole lives ahead of them. That’s true, unconditional love.

During the teen years, I didn’t like my children every single day. However, I always loved them. I like, love, admire, respect, and truly enjoy my young adult children. They inspire and teach me on a regular basis, and I am grateful for their trust in me.

What lessons have your children taught you?

The author's three adult children - two daughters and a son, holding a puppy


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