how to raise an adult

April 4th, 2018

Today I walked to Rite Aid, something I’ve done a few times — okay, exactly twice. On the sidewalk ahead, I could see a bowlegged man shuffling toward me. When he got up close he pointed to the intersection behind me with his cane.

Is that Huntington? he asked.

No, that’s Sierra Madre Boulevard.

OK, he said, I just have to cross that street.

Huntington and Sierra Madre boulevards are three miles apart and not in any way like the other. So I wondered for the rest of the afternoon whether he was: 1) following a peculiar exercise regimen, or 2) genuinely disoriented and lost. I didn’t look back to see if he made it across the street, nor did I see him on the return walk home, but he stayed with me, that old traveler did.

When I encounter a stranger who tells me something unexpected — the lady in the Whole Foods parking lot who said she loved the shape of my head; Sister Imelda, a nun in full habit on the hiking trail telling me she was collecting souls — I figure they have a message for me. The message is to wake up. After 10,000 or so steps, I realized the man had given me an answer I’d been looking for.

I’ve been wanting to write a post about how to raise an adult, an activity that’s occupying me these last hundred days before my daughter leaves home. But I couldn’t, because I don’t know how to raise an adult. I was thinking I’d come up with a handy list of steps, like, say, the steps for growing corn. But it turns out growing corn isn’t that simple to sum up either. There’s the matter of soil, weather, temperature and pests: so many variables, too many unknowns.

When you’re a parent, every question you have is how, and every answer is do. All those ages and stages, milestones and thresholds, tests and percentages, transitions and regressions, variables and unknowns. But that’s in your head. In real life, to get where you’re going you just have to cross the street.

Forward motion: it happens.

Last week, a vote-by-mail ballot for the city election came addressed to my daughter. I sat beside her as she read the instructions, asked thoughtful questions and filled in the bubbles. Then she signed her name with a signature I’d never seen and wouldn’t have recognized. An adult.

Guess that’s how.

***

Coming up next:
What is Zen: A Retreat in Kansas City, April 13-15
Still Summer: A Zen Retreat in Ohio, Cincinnati July 5-8

 

4 Comments »

  1. I’ve actually grown corn, sold it by the baker’s dozen.

    Parenting would have been so much less traumatic for me if only I’d relied on what I knew.

    25 years too late, but maybe this reminder will make me a wise “Grand” should that day ever arrive.

    Comment by MJ — April 5, 2018 @ 5:35 am

  2. From what I’ve seen, grandparents are automatically wise. They see the miracle.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — April 5, 2018 @ 6:13 pm

  3. “Then she signed her name with a signature I’d never seen and wouldn’t have recognized.”
    O my, that breaks my heart. What happened?

    Comment by Simone — April 8, 2018 @ 10:56 am

  4. Parenting an adult, I’m slowly… ever so slowly… learning to answer the question “how?” with “breathe” and “trust.”

    Comment by Kerry — April 10, 2018 @ 10:11 am

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