Throwback Thursday: Fine lines... worn and walked

This #TBT piece by Lisa Carpenter originally published April 15, 2014 on Grandma's Briefs. Thank you for reading!

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As I scan shelf after shelf of beauty aids at the drugstore in search of the perfect product to combat my age spots and wrinkles, I consider the plethora of inescapable fine lines I encounter in this phase of life. Despite the endless number of serums and creams and BB this and AHA that created to (sort of) soothe away the skin issues, I’ve yet to find a solution to the fine lines that matter most: those encountered in my role as a parent to adult children.

Most concerning are the fine lines I walk—that all parents of grown children walk—as I attempt to be wise, supportive, encouraging for my adult children without seeming overbearing, overprotective, overly critical or any other overly state that might tangle the ties that bind me to my dear ones.

All parents know of such lines, lines that first become most obvious—and threaten to trip us up—when our teens stand on the precipice to adulthood. We want them to dream big and broad yet realistic. Be daring and unafraid… yet safe. Show compassion without being a pushover. Open oneself to the world and its opportunities yet focus on nurturing their inner self.

Oh, such fine lines that we walk in encouraging all that and more before our children leave home, make the leap into the world without us.

The lines don’t disappear once they’ve leapt. In fact, they become more salient yet elusive, subtle. Seems some things are welcome, others verboten. What most affects a parent’s balance is that the welcome and the verboten swaps sides of the line now and again. The unspoken terms of agreement between parent and adult child seem to be that the terms of agreement may change at any time, without notice.

The finest line of all, the line with the most egregious ramifications if clumsily crossed, relates to parenting adult children who have children of their own, our grandchildren. 

On this line, be ever so careful where you step. Advice requested in relation to fevers, rashes, unfortunate events? Give it graciously, generously. Unsolicited suggestions for proper potty training or passenger safety, daycare and dining options, well, not so much. Not at all, in fact. Unless asked… at least twice before offering an honest opinion.

Fine lines indeed for parents, for grandparents. Show concern not control. Give insight not instruction. Sympathize don’t patronize. Share enthusiasm, encouragement, interest and excitement but, please, not too much.

The problem—at least for me—lies in making the distinction between where one ends and the other begins, where some becomes too much.

Why cause myself such brain damage, add to my gray hair, actual fine lines and furrowed brows? Adult children are, after all, adults. They can find their way, make their mark, raise their young without us.

Yet the term used to define them seems such an oxymoron. Adult children. They very consciously focus on the word adult; we subconsciously (or not) focus on the word children. Most of the time. Other times coddling, comforting, advising proves warranted, wanted.

Until it’s not. Knowing when and where the line of not is drawn proves to be the hardest part of all—for both sides.

No day cream or wrinkle remover can help me here. I consider that just as the lines on my face have been hard earned, show character, those fine lines I traverse as a parent show character, as well. I can only hope it’s, at the very least, a somewhat worthy and reliable character I reveal to my children and grandchildren as I stumble through the balancing act.

Photo courtesy

Today's question:

How are you at walking fine lines with adult children?