How Can We Help Our Son Function as an Adult

Question: Dear Luise: My son is 23 years old. His wife is 25. I didn’t want them to marry four years ago. My husband and I tried to tell them not to wed, to give it some time. Yet, they were insistent and so since her family doesn’t have the money we paid for their wedding which was small, family and a few friends. My son had never really had a serious relationship and I felt he needed time to grow up as did she. However, I wouldn’t change a thing as I have a wonderful, beautiful grandson of a little over two years old. A week ago, he left to cool off after some argument (I’m not privy to what it was all about) and he came to us to talk for about an hour or so. When he returned home, more calm, but she was gone to her parents home with his son. She left a note. However, she did not return and has refused to basically speak with him as to why she refuses to come home or return to try and work things out. My husband and I haven’t always had it easy ourselves but we managed to remain together for 24 years this coming May. He’s a basket case. He can’t seem to function. So I spoke up finally after a few days and told him he had to grow up and take care of his son and himself. My husband took him to his family doctor to speak with them about his anxiety attacks. He has an appointment with an attorney to ONLY ensure his rights in visitation are kept and he has an appointment with a family counselor at our local mental health dept. I feel so helpless as a few nights my husband has spent the night with him. I know we can’t be there 24/7 and he’ll have to stand on his own two feet eventually. I’m just terrified for him and I don’t know what else I can do. I’ve spoken to my daughter-in-law and she really didn’t reveal much more to me which I didn’t expect and I didn’t push the matter. I reassured her that I still love her but I also told her that the reality of things is that she left and that when my son asked for my moral and spiritual support that I would be there just as she would for her child. I hope she understands and I suppose I’m just praying that she’ll return since that’s what my son has begged her to do. It’s just tearing me apart to see him so distraught. What else could I do to help him be a good father, learn the ropes and know he can care for his son alone instead of me his mother or father being at his side constantly? J.

Answer: Dear J.: We see the immaturity and flaws in our kids (or worse yet, we don’t) but there’s really nothing we can do about any of it once they step into the adult world. And it’s their choice when that step is taken and very few are ready. I was young as well as dumb when I married at 20. And to make things worse, I had no idea that was the case.

Adulthood can be a heavy load to carry for a man as well as for a woman. There are lessons to learn and sometimes failure is part of them.

You have done a great job of being loyal and realistic with both your son and your daughter-in-law but you can’t do much of anything to help them learn and grow. They have to do it at their own pace and in their own way. Knowing you’re there for both of them must give them comfort. Growing into a responsible adult is hard for many of us.

Keep being cautious about the fine line between support and enabling. That’s a tough call. Hang in there and cross your fingers. Blessings, Luise

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