Sisterhood Blog

Meeting Our Grown Children Where They Are

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

There is a beautiful piece in yesterday’s New York Times travel section, an essay by House & Garden editor Dominique Browning on her attempt to forge a new relationship with her two young adult sons as they travel together by train across the country.

It is an apt piece for this time of year, the season of graduations and preparations for new leave-taking — on summer adventures, on gap-year journeys and to college, where Boychik is headed in September. It is a season of secular ceremonies, the high school graduation I will soon attend among them, with young people in caps and gowns wending their way toward adulthood. There ought to be a Jewish ritual to mark this liminal moment for our sons and daughters and, more to the point, for us.

But in the meantime, there is Browning’s essay, in which she gracefully writes about the challenge of meeting your young adult children as they are, so that you can still be in a relationship with them. A relationship different than the one marked by, as she puts it, “molding, scolding or holding,” which is generally the approach for the first 18-plus years of their lives.

Browning writes:

The entry into adult childhood, with its complex alchemy of separation and attachment, is as fraught a time as the baby end of childhood. More so, for the parent, anyway. When he is 5, a child has no choice but to be with you. When he is 25, he is with you only by choice. As most of us don’t want to lose touch with our kids just when they become truly interesting people, we have to figure out how to navigate that perilous, post-adolescent territory.

A train journey seemed not only a perfect metaphor for the experience, but it also gave us time to sort out some of our new moves.

Out of the trip she has gained wisdom, and offers the reader excellent advice, including:

•Don’t say everything that pops into your brain.

•No more corrections of any sort.

•Do interesting things together. Do anything together.

•Listen and do nothing. Or do nothing and just listen.

I had to start thinking this way this past year, when Boychik had his first real relationship and was rarely home. Even when he was, he was constantly preoccupied with texting his girlfriend. Though I knew it was an appropriate moment for this change (and my husband and I liked his choice of a girlfriend), it was a sudden and difficult shift for me. Overnight, things seemed to change. And I missed him (I still haven’t found anyone else who lives at my house to watch “Saturday Night Live” with). Eventually things settled into a more normal rhythm. From the experience I learned that, as in toddlerhood, in adolescence they run away from you, the mother, and then toward you again. Away, then close again — each time in a different direction. You just hope and pray that you’ve taught them enough to know not to run into the street.

I know we will all miss Boychik come September, when we move him into his dorm. I also know people who have managed to maintain good, close relationships with their children through the transition from childhood into adulthood. It’s so different than in our day, when me and all my friends couldn’t wait to get the hell out of our family’s house, and took a long time to establish a new and sometimes improved relationship with our parents.

Boychik’s university isn’t terribly far from home (a 90-minute car ride or, as I describe it, far enough away from home for him and close enough for us). We will see each other, and he will be home during school breaks. Leaving for college today is hardly the end of the family relationship.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Parenting, Adult Children, Dominique Browning

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.