Parenting Adult Children: The Art of Letting them Fly

Parenting adult children and trusting your adult kids to forge their own way is not for the faint of heart. “Give them wings to fly” they said,  “You’ve done your job, now watch them flourish” they said. Clearly, they aren’t the anxious mums lying awake at 3 a.m., with worst-case scenarios racing through their minds wondering how on earth the time passed so quickly.

club soccer youth

Becoming an empty nester earlier than anticipated wasn’t part of my grand master plan. But then, when has parenting ever stuck to the script? The pandemic threw us all a curveball, but for my youngest, it opened an unexpected door. As a freshman in high school, he left home to live in England with a host family, chasing his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. While other mums were busy prepping their kids for school dances, attending parents night and cheering on their kids in high school sports, I was juggling international flights and time zones, visiting as often as I could, and catching his games on livestreams or tape delay.

parenting adult children sometimes means watching tapes of games

The juxtaposition of pride and longing is a tough pill to swallow when you’re parenting adult children. On one hand, I felt a deep sense of pride watching my son forge his own path with determination, courage, and passion. However, many times I had my own private pity party, feeling robbed of the traditional high school experiences I had patiently waited for. Instead of watching from the sidelines at games or shopping for the perfect prom outfit, I was miles away, playing the role of international cheerleader from afar. While my son was living his dream, I found myself navigating the bittersweet reality of letting go.

Why did I have to have a kid who didn’t follow the traditional path to do what was expected of him, in a script that was written for him before he was even born?

from soccer mom to parenting adult children

Having a kid who knows exactly where he wants to go and is forging his path to get there, is admirable. Yet, there’s always the underlying instinctive, maternal urge to hold on tight. College soccer has been an absolute delight, and we attend as many games as possible. But when he told me, “Mum, I know you don’t want to hear this, but I’m not coming home for summer,” I literally caught my breath. He had found his own USL 2 soccer team to play for in Seattle, and decided to move there for the summer. When I asked, “Who is going to fund that?” he confidently replied, “I am, Mum. Don’t worry about it.”

parenting adult children i not for the faint of heart

In that moment, I took a deep breath and realized I had to let him figure this out for himself. Of course I was anxious and nervous of the unknown, but it was mixed with admiration, watching him take this bold step. Isn’t that what we want for our children? Isn’t parenting adult children watching them stand on their own two feet, ready to face the world with courage? To be able to figure out things for themselves and make things happen? So, with a fragile heart, and a bit of nervous anticipation, I let him go with my blessing, knowing he was ready for this next adventure.

parenting adult children as my son plays for west seattle junction FC in Seattle

This experience is fantastic for him, being part of the West Seattle Junction FC inaugural soccer team in Seattle owned by three inspiring women. Living with one of the owners and her son, who is also on the team, he’s truly forging his own way. It’s a bit surreal not knowing his daily schedule or his new friends, but I trust him to figure it out. And I’m secretly cringing at the thought of him stinking up her house with his smelly gear, just like he does mine.

julian Kuhr plays for West Junction FC in Seattle

It’s one thing to have dreams and goals, but we’ve always raised our kids to be realistic, to understand the value of a dollar and how to make one. While it would be easy for me to transfer some money into his account, it was his choice to live independently this summer, without the comforts of home. No fully stocked refrigerator, no car filled with petrol, and no cozy family dinners ordered in. Instead, he’s navigating life in a new state, doing what he loves, and living on his own. He’s also figuring out how to make money to support himself and his rather lively college social life at the University of Wisconsin in Madison… which isn’t exactly cheap to maintain I hear.

Julian Kuhr playing for University of Wisconsin Madison

You see, that’s our deal: we provide our kids with an education, however knowing they have champagne tastes and want to be part of everything, they need to fund that part. I do realize that our kids have the privilege of a soft landing if they wobble, but I’m watching them test that. He knows he’s grounded and safe, yet he’s taking his independence and stretching the boundaries of comfort. Knowing he’s standing on his own two feet and truly making his own way in the world makes me think perhaps I didn’t screw him up too badly after all.

Julian Kuhr soccer player for University of Wisconson Madison and West Seattle Junction FC

Isn’t this the point of parenting adult children? Isn’t this what we want for our kids? To watch them spread their wings? We work hard for 18 years for this very moment. So why, then, does it still feel so surreal, so nostalgic, so strange for my mama heart? Oh, I get it… this is a natural evolution of motherhood. It’s a bittersweet mix of wistfulness, of joy, and anticipation, as we watch them step into their own lives.

walking out with the game face on

I’m excited for the trips I have planned to visit and watch his games, and to be his number one fan in the stands. He still gives me those glances when he does something great to make sure I saw it (I did!), and shoots me the death stare as he walks out with his game face on before a match, making sure I’m feeling it with him (I am).  And I absolutely love that he still introduces me with pride to his teammates. I may not show up with a bag of oranges anymore, but I do show up to take them out for food (I know the way to a teenage boy’s heart!). I know he still needs me and is making sure I’m right there with him. Every. Single. Time.

Julian Kuhr is a soccer player at the University of Wisconson - Madison - parenting adult children is hard to let go

My head knows this is all part of parenting adult children, but my heart has trouble catching up sometimes. Until it does, I’ll be stalking the media accounts of the teams he’s playing for, hoping to catch a glimpse of him in action. And when I see that huge smile in photographs, I’ll know he’s exactly where he needs to be at the exact right time.

Julian Kuhr plays on the Men's soccer team at University of Wisconsin - Madison

Julian Kuhr - playing for USL2 team West Seattle Junction FC

It’s these moments that remind me why we do this. Why we let them fly, even when it feels like my heart might break. Because in the end, parenting adult children is about watching them become who they are meant to be, with the love, support, and family values we’ve instilled in them.

parenting adult children - the art of letting them fly

So here’s to all the mums parenting adult children, lying awake at 3 a.m., imagining the worst but hoping for the best. We’ve got this. We really do. And to our kids, who are out there living their lives and forging their own paths, we’re proud of you. Every single day.

And as for the future? Bring it on. I’m ready to watch you soar.

Julian Kuhr playing for West Seattle Junction FC and parenting young adults

Do you have any tips for Parenting Adult Children?

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About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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