Walking back from my Zumba Gold class–which makes me officially old–I passed a newsstand piled high with that free monthly from years of yore: Parents’ Press. I don’t mean to imply that Parents’ Press is no longer being published; I just don’t read it anymore, so it blends into that invisible backdrop of Things For Other People. In it, inquiring minds can read about the safest playground equipment, the optimal number of guests to invite to a seven-year-old’s birthday party, and how to get your kid to eat broccoli. I’d forgotten that such issues were ever relevant to me.
I’m still a parent. But Parents’ Press doesn’t provide much guidance beyond school-aged kids. There’s the occasional article about college admissions or high school sports, but its primary readership is parents of younger children–that period of parenthood when you have more influence and presumably more control.
When my daughter was a baby, bookstores were teeming with titles promising to help me do everything from writing a birthing plan to getting my child into college. I believe in the power of information, so I bought a book to help me navigate those early desperate, sleep-deprived months: Your One-Year-Old by Dr. Louise Ames Bates. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the same author had written Your Two-Year Old, which I snatched up the following year, eager to mine her knowledge of toddlers. Your Three-Year Old was an automatic purchase, especially because I had erroneously thought that the legend of the “terrible twos” implied that three-year-olds were easy peasy by comparison. Which, in fact, was not the case. I think whoever came up with the concept of the terrible twos just liked the way it sounded. But because I failed to get the memo on the threatening threes, I was blindsided.
Anyhoo…the point is that someone had very thoughtfully written user manuals for parents. Just owning such volumes provided a certain amount of security. Only later did I realize their inherent danger: because I’d read an expert on child-rearing, I was deluded into thinking I was in control. (“This has to work because it was in the book!”) Indeed I looked forward to each new year of my daughter’s life so that I could read the next in the series, certain that at one point the book would tell me that I’d arrived at the sweet spot and it was smooth sailing from then on.
Spoiler alert: that moment never came.
I diligently read the whole series, which also covers children who are four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine, but ends with Your Ten-to-Fourteen-Year Old. I can only imagine that by the time Ms. Ames had published her advice for how to deal with tweens, she grew too disinterested to devote a separate volume to each year. And then, afraid to tackle those tricky teen years, she probably mixed herself a martini and left parents to face their destinies alone and without her guidance.
All of this leads me to wonder where the parenting articles and books are for me, the mother of a 22-year-old? Who is writing on important subjects such as which questions are appropriate to ask the young adult in your life? What can I read that will help me offer just the right amount of support that will neither enable her nor cripple her? Where are the instructions that tell me how often I should call? And why hasn’t someone published what should be a must-read for all parents of young adults: Navigating Social Media for Parents of Twenty-Somethings? (Is it OK to accept a friend request from your daughter’s ex-girlfriend whom you’ve never met?) And wouldn’t it be so helpful to have a pocket glossary so you could keep track of words that joined the lexicon long after you graduated from college? (By the way, “non-binary” is no longer just a math term.)
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is a lifelong endeavor that is constantly assessed for quality control and it must adapt to the ebb and flow of the one being parented. And that’s how it should be. I’m reminded of my favorite title ever of a parenting book: Anthony Wolf’s Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? We walk a delicate tightrope in order to provide the right amount of space and support. Parenting looks different at twenty-two than it did during the threatening threes. For one thing, my only child is thousands of miles away. But it’s not only the geographic distance that looms; new ideas and beliefs create their own kind of distance. Which is part of growing up, right? After all, if we do our job well, then our confident, resourceful children eventually don’t need us. Talk about a disconnect between job performance and job security…
So my challenge is to parents who have already survived those tricky twenties: write a guide book! I’d buy Your Twenty-Two-Year Old in a heartbeat. And I’m telling you, the person who writes Navigating Social Media for Parents of Twenty-Somethings will make a million.