When your adult child hurts, you hurt as a parent. You can’t soothe a scraped knee or put a cool cloth on a bumped head. You can’t even always offer any helpful advice or practical help. Sometimes they would take help if you had it to offer, and sometimes they wouldn’t. If your adult child hurts, you have to sit back and watch as they make their own choices for good or ill. You can’t put them in time out, or know that a good night’s sleep will make everything brighter in the morning. Sometimes you can only sit and hurt silently with them.
It’s so hard to write today. I’m still feeling numbly sad and afraid for my daughter. It’s like a terrible fatigue that I have to battle from without and within. I’m making the daily list to make sure nothing slips through the cracks with kids, bills, pets etc., but my heart is over the miles and crossing Time to once again carry her.
Her sixteen year old sister told me last night, “Mom, don’t worry. She won’t go to live in the Amazon. She likes nice things too much, and even complained because there weren’t nice curtains in this room.” Hmm. I’ve known my firstborn to do some stupid things out of sheer stubbornness. She was one of those kids.
But my real concern is the impact of years of stress and strain on her mental health. She’s been a decade in a turbulent marriage. Years ago after one of the times they came out of a very bad patch, I sat her husband down and told him clearly that she’s the kind of person that needs stability. She requires it more than the average person. I told him that in order for them to make it, his choices needed to always keep that in mind. He’s done the opposite with his choices. Her life with him has been anything but stable; in fact, it’s been years of her trying to create stability while he chased ‘personal fulfillment’. His last chasing after personal fulfillment meant he had an affair while she was pregnant with their youngest child.
When I married my husband, I didn’t know about the history in his family of some serious mental health issues. I’m not sure if I’d been told that I would have understood enough to be concerned. At that naive young age and at that point in time, I was full of confidence and lived in an era when industrialized medicine was almost cocky with being able to come up with a pill or surgery to fix or cure anything.
Everything was genetics back then, but now we’re beginning to understand the impact of epigenetics. It’s not just that genetics can contribute a kind of predisposition or vulnerability or strength for certain things, but that environmental factors affect characteristics of living organisms. Or as Bryan Turner put it, “DNA is just a tape carrying information, and a tape is no good without a player. Epigenetics is about the tape player.”
At the bottom of this, it’s a constant battle to not blame myself beyond perspective. My mind sneaks back to junctions and choices and begins to wonder which choice could have opened a different path for her, one with more stability and less stress.
When an adult child hurts, their adult hurts can be far beyond your parental realm of remedy.