BY MITCHELL ROSEN
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST
When my grown children get a new boyfriend or girlfriend, my wife and I are anxious to meet them. My wife wants to invite them to dinner, maybe go to a movie and talk. I'm fine with dinner, an MMPI, a short mental health status exam and a talk in the study under my picture of Sigmund Freud. Either way, we want to know our son or daughter has chosen a person worthy of them.
Problem is, most grown children don't bring their dates home to meet mom and dad, at least not while they are getting to know one another. So weeks or months may pass and we hear about this person secondhand. Trying to be patient, we may drop subtle hints like, "So we'll be home this weekend, why don't you and XXXX drop by?"
Our kids, like most young adults, know exactly what we are up to and graciously make excuses that say, "When I'm good and ready, I'll let you know." My wife and I will fumble with statements like, "We have a really big piece of salmon and don't want it to go to waste" or "We have a coupon for a fresh strawberry pie from Coco's." Politely our kids will nod and state, "Ok, I'll let you know."
Parenting is so much different when the kids are adults. It is unreasonable to make demands, set limits or anything of the sort. We are left with what we hope is a reservoir of good will that encourages the young adults to know it is not our intent to be intrusive but we still care. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the fact that kids, even grown ones, still want mom and dad's approval, and who they pick for a partner is a large part of being an adult. Until they feel confident they've chosen a keeper, chances are they will delay bringing him or her around mom and dad.
I mean, in your 20s, do you really want to hear your parents say your new friend is, "OK, I guess?" Might as well drive a dagger through their heart with an attached note that says, "Too stupid to choose wisely."
When my wife and I feel like we're being put on the back burner it's hard not to let imaginations go wild. Are we that embarrassing? Do you think it's because I chew with my mouth open and make weird noises? How is it I've failed the social coolness test?
Could be all or none of the above. Assuming I don't walk around in my PJs with my belly hanging out, it is entirely possible our son or daughter wants to take their time and feel more comfortable with their choice. Unlike when they were 15 or 16, we don't have the right to insist on meeting whom they are socializing with -- and although humbling, it's a sign of respect. Acknowledgment that now they are adults and when they feel the time is right, that is when it will happen.
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