Adulting is a Cop-Out: When Can Parents Retire from Parenting?

“Your kids will always be your kids”, they told us, “no matter how old they are.”

And it’s true. You never, ever stop being a parent. In our late twenties we got an inkling of this idea, when the relationship my husband had with his dad became so important. He was the idea-bouncer, the one to whom my husband can take life’s chaos to help him sort through the garbage to see what was most important. Even now, 25 years later, this relationship deepens and continues, albeit different as parent and child are beginning to reverse roles.

Adulting is a Cop-Out: When Can Parents Retire from Parenting?

Also in our twenties though, we had kids. Lots of them.

Four between us, and then foster babies one after another… after another. We balanced my husband’s frequent overnight jobs out of town with my stepkids going back and forth between their mom’s place and ours, bills, homeschooling, and family fun. Lots of family fun. Those years were chaotic bliss, as corny and cliché as that sounds but they really were. They were hard years but they were full, rich, wonderful years that I wouldn’t change for anything. They rooted and formed our family.

Our thirties and early forties brought two adoptions, 22 foster placements, and the era of public school and teenagers which we are still in the throes of with several years yet to look forward to. Our oldest is 28 and we have 14 and 16-year olds at home. Still parenting teens. But we have the end in sight, yes?

Ten years ago, when our oldest moved out into her own life, we had this vision in mind of each of our six kids growing up, moving out and into college and work and life. We saw experiences that they would be able to take advantage of that we didn’t because we had kids so young. We saw them coming home for family barbecues in between working and their busy lives, chatting on the phone and helping with life’s rough spots but knowing they were fully equipped to handle them with just a little guidance.

Then the first grandbaby came, his mother as young as I was when I had my first. Another kid ended up in drug rehab. A third was just fine until the “I’m 18’s” hit and she decided to ignore everything she’d ever learned about life and responsibility from her parents so she could go out and live her life her way. We watch as she is repeatedly stomped on by life as “adulting” has become the thing to do rather than actually being an adult. She’s even chosen to live in a homeless shelter at times, as if it were a viable option rather than a cop-out for being truly independent.

Definition of adulting

Adulting. How is this an actual concept? Why is being an adult now something you only do on occasion, as an alternative to… adolescent-ing? Teenager-ing? I call BS on adulting.

Let’s call “adulting” what it is: IMMATURITY temporarily masquerading as adulthood.

This is today’s version of playing house—but the roles are played by young adults. Remember playing house? That’s when kids pretend to have their own home, family, babies, bills to pay, and they “play adults” for a little while. When they are done the toys are put away and they go back to being the children that they are.

Years ago when our kids were growing, we assumed that they would grow into mature, responsible adults who could stand on their own two feet. We taught them to be responsible, take pride in a job well done, encouraged their creativity, and tried to be the best parents we could be. We weren’t perfect. We made mistakes but so did our parents, and we were as well-equipped for life as we could be.

We assumed that they would be ready, only to need us for moving help (Dad can you haul this couch for me?), family recipes, and an ear to bounce ideas off of like my husband does with his dad. What we have are a couple of grown kids (not all of them, just a couple praise God) who do this “adulting” when it suits them and a lot of circular “It’s my life leave me alone!”—“Help me! I need to know what to do!”—”Stay out of my business, I’ll live the way I want to!”

And we’re done.

We’re just done. Done parenting adults who don’t want to be adults. Done rescuing when rescue doesn’t change things.


There’s a stanza in Queen Jane Approximately which comes to my mind so often lately…

“When your mother sends back all your invitations

and your father, to your sister, he explains

That you’re tired of yourself, and all of your creations

Won’t you come and see me, Queen Jane?”

– Written by Bob Dylan, as performed by Bob Weir/Grateful Dead

I’m that mother right now. I’m tired of it all.

It’s hard loving kids who don’t appreciate what we’ve gone through to raise them. At what age is it permissible for parents to say they are all done? These days we look longingly at homes for sale in other states and dream of moving far away but we’ll probably never do it because we are parents who love our kids, and that never stops.

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