Fathering Adult Children and Grandchildren
"The most important...work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes."-Harold B. LeeContent
OverviewMany fathers feel mixed emotions at seeing their children grow up and leave home. It might be sad to see the ones they have taught, loved, and nurtured for so long, leave. On the other hand, a sense of joy might more adequately describe the departure. Many fathers feel that they don't have responsibility once the children leave the house and "declare independence," but good fathering continues throughout life.
Young adults are still developing. They are forming intimate relationships, making lasting commitments, maturing in their abilities to make self sacrifices, and learning to care for the next generation. In all these important developmental tasks, a father's strong example can be a great asset to adult children. Fathers can be a source of support and gentle guidance for adult children, especially in times of need or distress.
The following stories illustrate how fathers continue to parent even after the children are "on their own."
StoriesThe next two stories show the importance of mentoring work. In the first, Isaac tells of an experience he had with his father after he had been away from home for awhile.
"I was older and married. It's been really interesting because, like I said, my Dad's been really quiet and my Mom is very demonstrative. I remember coming home after I came back from the war in Vietnam, and he said something to me. I can't even remember exactly what he said, but it was really interesting. For the first time I think that I heard him verbalize that he loved me, and it just kind of stopped me in my tracks, and he hugged me.
"That had never happened all my growing up years that I could remember. I was thirty four. We had gone home for Christmas, I think, and it might have been the first time that he had met my wife. I remember what he said. He said, "You treat her good, because that is the woman you need." He told me, because we were thinking about moving back to Kansas City, "There is nothing for you here. Absolutely nothing, there is nothing here." It was interesting because it was like he was having a father-and-son talk with me.
"I was thinking that I was thirty- four and married, and this was almost the birds-and-the-bees type of thing. That was really touching, as he opened up and fumbled through it. And then he felt more comfortable. I sat there and let him do it."
Paul remembers a time when he was in need and how his father came through for him even when he didn't ask for assistance.
"Seven years ago I was in a partnership in construction and it went sour. The company got into a bad situation and, without going into a lot of detail, the bottom line was that I left. All I had known was construction for five or six years, since I'd been home from my mission [for his church]. I didn't know anything else, and construction was gone. There were no homes being built, no job opportunities, and I'd soured on it from what had happened.
"Basically, I ended up losing a home and becoming unemployed with no money. I'd learned from my family how to survive tough times: You face situations, nothing is ever critical, there's always a tomorrow, you're not going to die, etc. Yes, it might be important or a sticky situation, but you'll face it and tomorrow you'll go on. However, for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like there was a tomorrow. I had no money. I had bill collectors coming to the door. It really got to me when I realized that I didn't have enough money to buy a loaf of bread to feed my wife and my one child.
"When you are put into situations like that, you lose all self-confidence and all feelings of self-worth. I was devastated. My father could sense that something was wrong. My parents didn't know what the situation was or how bad it was, but they just showed up with some groceries. It was as if they were saying, "We don't know what you need, but we have some extra and here it is." It's probably one of the few times that I've cried in front of my father.
In the story below, a college student expresses gratitude for a wise father who knows how to listen and counsel.
"College life can be really fun, but really hard at the same time. There are so many important decisions to make--like where to live, whether to work or not while going to school, how to handle relationships, and what to do after graduation. When I really need advice, I call home and talk to my dad. I don't know where this normally impatient man developed the patience to listen to his twenty-one-year-old daughter ramble on about school, young men, and her future, but he always listens with interest.
"He never fails to praise me for the good things I am doing. He helps me to understand things about myself that I hadn't even been aware of. He even knows things about my future that I don't know--He says he won't tell me until it's all over! Sometimes I call when I'm having a bad day and just need to remember that my dad still loves me. He knows at those times that all he needs to do is listen."
ConclusionFatherWork is a lifelong commitment. When children are young, fathers are a shortstop, a coach, and even a team player in their child's game of life. As the innings progress and the child matures into adulthood, this relationship is not dissolved. Generative fathers learn to play different positions in their child's life; they now become an outfielder. An outfielder is not always in the action of the game, but he plays an integral part.
A generative father still gets to view his child's life, even if he is waiting for a fly ball for part of the game. Successful fathering is like a baseball game; participation is necessary throughout the entire game. As a father, it is up to you to be there for your children even as they grow into adulthood. By letting them know you will be part of their team, you allow them to play their best while remaining part of their lives.
Learning and Application ActivitiesPlease complete one of the following: