Walking on Eggshells
A whole other generation gap is creating an uneasy distance now between parent and grown-up child.
We didn't lecture we didn't scream (well, hardly ever). We handled the kids with kid gloves. We listened, we empathized, we understood. So how come our grown-up children have so much trouble relating to us? Veteran book editor and parent Jane Isay lays out some answers in her gentle guide for the perplexed, Walking on Eggshells: Staying Close to Your Adult Children (Flying Dolphin/Doubleday). Warmly, sometimes achingly honest—as when she talks about her own failures as a mother—Isay interviewed some 75 parents and their grown children. She pinpoints the newly identified stage of development called "emerging adulthood," when, instead of leaping from the nest into marriages and careers, 20-somethings linger for aid and comfort—even as they scorn it. They confide in us, then retreat behind a "curtain of silence." We, for our parts, tend to keep an "emotional bankbook" ("When you believe that your children owe you everything, there is no way that they can repay you"). We dread their indifference and contempt; they fear "the narrowing of eyes in judgment." The solution, according to a sage and serene parent called Sheila, is to "keep your mouth shut and your door open." Learn the difference between advising and controlling. And try to sense what your child, even when emotionally distant, still feels for you, because "most often the love is there—hiding in plain sight."


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