I am indebted to my wife for instructing me how to view our then-24 year old daughter who, while increasingly more capable of fending for herself, might, on occasion have a transient meltdown, necessitating an assist, from either one or both of her parents, coupled with judicious application of just the right kind and amount of TLC.
It seems that when we were her age, my wife and I were already grown-up. Well, sort of, because in retrospect, I can now better appreciate how long it takes to cook-up a healthy, mature adult. But when we were that age, we had been already been married a few years and were deep in the thick of serious grownup responsibilities.
Then, again, what do I know? Every generation has its own unique set of remarkable challenges and the world keeps challenging every generation in remarkable ways that the parents of those, within that generation, can only assume and we all know what happens when you assume!
So with deep and profound thanks to my wife, I would look at my daughter, with a sigh of acceptance and a modicum of relief, not as someone who was fully cooked-up at 24 years of chronological age, but rather as a “baby adult” - which reminds me that at each developmental stage of her life, there were several bumps in the road along her particular way.
Consideration of the moniker of “baby adult” also served my daughter’s parents very well insofar as it enabled us to ride the brakes of our good intentions so as not to unduly, inadvertently or inappropriately parentify her when rescue is the last thing she needed!
Because language structures thought in very powerful ways, to utilize the linguistic label of “baby adult” certainly expresses and implies something extremely different from framing the words as an “adult child” since the former phrase negatively reinforces the “child” part as the operative predicate, whereas, the latter phrase positively reinforces the “adult” part as the operative predicate.
I sleep better most nights knowing that my “baby” is an emerging and evolving “adult” and that no matter what problem or curve ball life throws at her, so long as my wife and I are alive, we will certainly do our very best to provide any assist, as requested or required, but for all other times and circumstances, we must, respectfully, know our place and even more, respectfully, defer to our “baby adult”.
Author Note: Dr. Larry B. Gelman is a Clinical Psychologist and a Personal Mentor
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