Being a parent to adult children

Peeling paint
Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Kodak Tri-X (expired 2/06), 2014

My last house had its original windows still, from 1969, single pane with aluminum storms screwed on. They needed repainted and reglazed when I moved in. What a dreadful job. The other option was to replace them, but that was a lot of money that I didn’t have. I put it off.

Finally they got to be this bad. I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer.

My parents retired in 2014, sold our longtime family home in South Bend, and moved to Indianapolis, where my brother and I lived. We were able to visit a lot more after that. One time when they came over I lamented the state of my windows.”

“I’ll paint and reglaze them,” Mom said. “I’m just sitting around the house anyway and would be very happy to have a big project to do.”

It was an enormous job. Mom worked on it most weekday afternoons, and it took her two, maybe three months to finish. But my windows looked terrific when she was done! I hardly knew how to thank her for it. I took my parents out for dinner at a posh restaurant and hoped that was enough.

This is how it was with my parents — they were willing to work hard on my house anytime I wanted or needed it. When I bought the house, the previous owner had just had a new well drilled, which left behind a mound of dirt that had to wait until the ground settled before being spread back out. A couple years later, Dad was over hanging out with my sons while I was at work, and he decided to issue them shovels and get that job done. Mom missed her extensive gardens, something she couldn’t replicate at their condo, so she worked hard in mine and made them look stunning. When the city compelled me to connect to the sanitary sewer, it destroyed my front yard. Mom and Dad came over and with my sons we all filled in the yard with fresh topsoil and planted grass. Then when I married Margaret and was ready to sell the house, Mom and Dad both helped me paint the interior and take care of a little maintenance I had deferred. Dad had been a cabinetmaker and had perfected a wax finish; he waxed my kitchen cabinets and left them aglow.

I didn’t understand why they were so eager to help me with these jobs. But their help was indispensable. Simple thanks were never enough, but were frequently all I knew how to offer.

My sons are now adults, and while they don’t own houses yet, they occasionally need their old Dad’s help. Garrett called me last weekend: “Dad, I’m going to switch apartments in March. Could I ask you to help me move when the day comes?”

Heck yeah! I’m thrilled to be included. I get it now — it’s deep in a parent to want to be included and involved in their adult children’s lives, and to be useful to them.

But I don’t know that I’ll ever be up for painting and reglazing windows.

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15 responses to “Being a parent to adult children”

  1. Shirley B. Avatar
    Shirley B.

    You’re right, that’s it. As a mother to a 28 year old son, I love to be asked to help. Most help can be done by phone, text or in person. I even volunteered to help him and his girlfriend clear out their storage box, but no luck so far, haha.

    To be included in the life of adult children is priceless!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It really is. You know, I don’t miss caring for them every day as I did when they were kids, but I miss having them around.

      1. Shirley B. Avatar
        Shirley B.

        I know exactly how you feel.

  2. Katie Yang Avatar

    I had the tiniest cut on my finger the other day from a broken glass and my parents FAWNED over me. My father sat on my childhood bed, opened up a box of band-aids, handed me one and made sure I used it. I don’t give them many opportunities to physically be there for me and it was so strange but also incredibly warm at the same time. I savored it. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      :-) I’m sure that felt good!

  3. Dick C. Avatar
    Dick C.

    My son asked for a bowling ball and bag for his birthday a couple years ago. I dusted off my old balls and shoes and took him bowling with his new gear. We’ve been bowling twice a week ever since unless I’m on a work trip.
    it truly is priceless.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh nice! What a great way to spend time.

      I don’t know what became of my bowling ball! I was in leagues as a teen, 40 years ago.

  4. Kurt Ingham Avatar

    Fun to read..thanks, Jim

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re welcome!

  5. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Yes….one of my sons got into photography three or four years ago when I gave him an old Ricoh SLR I had lying around and showed him how to use it. I love it when we see each other and do things together. Another has taken up golf, and having borrowed my unused clubs now has his own set – I am looking forward to playing a round with him. They have their own lives, but it is really great when our lives intersect in some way!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Nice. I gave one of my sons a K1000 a few years ago and he and I have taken a couple photo walks together. Always a nice time.

  6. Kodachromeguy Avatar

    I’d like to help my daughter on her house, but she lives across the continent.

    You wrote, “original windows still, from 1969.” My house has its original 1925 windows. They’ve had several cycles of reputtying. And the sills had red lead primer, but most is gone by now.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ooh, lead paint. “Fun.”

      I was surprised that my 1969 house had single-pane windows. That seemed kind of late for that. My prior house was built in 1958 and I was less surprised by the single-pane windows.

  7. J P Avatar

    With 2 kids sharing a 115 year old double now, I am pretty sure I will have a(nother) outlet for the do it yourselfer in me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sooner rather than later, I’m sure!

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