Come home to mama now!

Martha Wainwright

Martha Wainwright

I just heard, for the first time, Canadian-American singer songwriter Martha Wainwright’s beautiful and haunting rendition of her mother Kate McGarrigle’s song “Proserpina” and was knocked off my feet.

Martha Wainwright’s soaring voice expresses the pain, desperation and yearning of parents whose adult child has disappeared from their lives. The song could be about a homeless child, a drug-addled child out on a binge, an estranged child or simply a child who has chosen to live in another country.

The chorus of the song goes like this:

Proserpina! Proserpina!
Come home to mama, come home to mama
Proserpina! Proserpina!
Come home to mother, come home to mama now.

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Later! A Guide to Parenting A Young Adult

Later!I almost felt as if I were sitting in an office across from a fifty year old social worker and mother getting down to earth, no-nonsense advice on how to parent my adult child while reading “Later!” A Guide to Parenting A Young Adult.”

This is a how-to book, full of practical tips and if we are sensible, the authors seem to be saying, we will just get on with it. There is no room in this book for self-pitying, self recrimination or advice to stop blaming yourself for any poor behaviour your child may be exhibiting.

This is not to say that Later! is not a good book.  In fact, I thought it was excellent.

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Ten things I wish I told my mother

Violet Milligan at 17--later my very strong mother

A photo of my mother at 17 that reveals none of her strength

 

Would’ ve, should ‘ ve, could’ ve. 

Three words that apply to at least some parts of everyone’s life.

Here are ten things I should have told my mother when I was an adult child.

1. I wish you would say you love me.  You never do, you didn’t even when I was a child. I know you love me and you will always help me but it would mean so much to hear you say it. 

2. Thank you for not being demanding in terms of my time.  I am very aware of my obligations to you and Dad and obviously you realize that. You also understand how busy I am with my job and three children and you let me manage my life without adding another layer of guilt and responsiblity. As a result, I don’t resent spending time with you.

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Should governments and parents of hostages pay ransom to terrorist groups?

New YorkerWhile most of us sat numbly in our living rooms watching the news about the beheading of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, their parents and parents of three other adult children taken hostage by terrorist groups in Syria had been working behind the scenes to ensure the release of their children. They had limited support from the American government.

Only one, Theo Padnos, was saved. The other four, including James and Steven and Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller were killed.

The July issue of the New Yorker reports on this sad story.  The parents were brought together by media mogul David Bradley, who was committed to helping free the hostages, after he helped free one of his freelance writers who had been taken hostage in the middle east.  The American government had little involvement in solving that case and Bradley realized that the parents of these other five hostages would need help to obtain the freedom of their children. Bradley provided financial resources, contacts and skills.

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How to enjoy a family trip with adult kids

Snorkeling with the kids: safer than white water tubing

Snorkeling with the kids: safer than white water tubing

Holidays with adult children are a far cry from stewing over how to occupy your young children during the 10 long weeks of summer. But like all vacations with children no matter what their age, they are a live and learn experience.

As I white watered down a river in Costa Rica with my husband and adult children, our handsome muscle bound guide obviously felt the need to quell the look of terror in my eyes.

“OK Mama! Just reach out and grab my arm as you go down these shutes. I will stop your tube from turning over. ”

Like the rock climbing, perhaps I should have sat this one out.  But I managed, despite spilling into the warm water regardless of the proffered arm. I even received special consideration from the guide as he pulled my canvas tube through sections where the river was quiet while the others had to paddle on their own.

Apart from the fact that the guide kept calling me Mama, the day was a dream. If this is vacationing with my adult children, I’m all for it.

But this holiday, like others before, taught me a few things about how to vacation with adult kids.

According to local travel agents, I have made some classic mistakes. Read More

Coping with an estranged child

The light at the door Michael Carson photo

The light at the door
Michael Carson photo

“Sometimes all we can do is leave the porch light on with a key under the mat.”

That is one of the most heart-rending pieces of advice I read in a recent Huffington Post article for parents who are unwillingly estranged from their adult children.  The article includes advice from five experts on family relationships and all of them encourage parents to never stop reaching out to their child.

The article reminded me of my own experience with my parents as a young adult.  Although we were never estranged there was a period when I pulled away because I felt the disapproval  of my parents.   My youthful experiments were beyond their comprehension.  I don’t know whether they were more aghast when they learned I occasionally smoked marijuana or when my mother found my birth control pills in my purse.  I was no young teenager–I was 22 at the time and had a steady boyfriend.  Read More

Living with your in-laws: a growing trend

My Grandma or Mrs. Milligan to my Father

My Grandma or Mrs. Milligan to my Father

I grew up living with a grandmother in the house.

While it is not everyone’s idea of a good time to live with their parents or parents-in-law, it worked for my family.

My mom adored her quiet and undemanding mother. My father, who called her Mrs. Milligan all her life, took her in without complaint. Because of my father’s kindness to her mother, my mom called my dad “a prince among men” and had that nomer etched on his gravestone.  My father understood my grandmother’s situation because his own mother, my Nana, had similar limited means.  She lived with her daughter, my dad’s sister, and her husband.

Circumstances did not lead me to repeat that experience and I am not sure I would have been able to.  My mother and I would have been two clashing Alpha females and my mother-in-law was able to live on her own until she died.

But this generation is looking back in time for models for family living today. Young married couples are living with their parents and there are more multigenerational families than 30 years ago. The reasons vary–it could be to have help with the children, to afford a house or to offer help to an aging parent. But one thing is sure: it is a growing trend.

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Omar Khadr: It’s our turn to step up to the plate

kort-nwe-logo-omar-15-22-271

Ever since Mother’s Day and with Father’s Day just around the corner, I can’t stop thinking about how Omar Khadr’s parents failed him, how the Canadian government failed him, how Dennis Edney stepped up to the plate and how the rest of us need to do the same.

I have a son about the same age and it pains me to think how he would withstand such an ordeal.

By now, most of us know the sad story of Omar Khadr.

His parents turned him into a child soldier, moved him to Afghanistan, where in 2002 at the age of 15, he threw a hand grenade during a firefight that possibly killed an American soldier. He was caught and sent to Guantanamo Bay, a detention camp in Cuba. He was imprisoned, isolated, starved, sleep-deprived, water boarded, threatened with rape and hung up by his arms by U.S. government agents.

In 2010, Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to war crimes, allowing him the possibility of being transferred to Canada where he would serve most of his eight year sentence.  He later said he pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo Bay. He was advised that if he did not plead guilty he could spend the rest of his life there.

In 2012, Omar Khadr returned to Canada. He was placed first in a maximum-security prison and then in a medium-security prison in 2014.  He was released on bail in May, 2015.

No-one could argue that Omar Khadr’s parents were fit to parent a young teenager. They and their terrorist associates used him as a spy and a translator and ultimately in armed conflict.

Given the lack of proper parental care, Ottawa should have stepped up to the plate. Read More

When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart

20514.widea“When Your Adult Child Breaks You Heart”  is a wonderfully practical, well-organized and straight forward book intended to help parents of adult children with severe problems and who are causing major problems for themselves, their parents and others.

The authors Joel L. Young and Christine Adamec have written extensively on similar topics and know their subject well. This book was published in 2014.

The authors set the tone by explaining that most parents are not to blame for their child’s difficulties and they are determined to help parents stop blaming themselves. The authors believe that mental illness and substance abuse are the core of most problematic behaviour.

They reassure parents by saying that if you can’t think what terrible thing you did to doom your adult child, than you probably didn’t do any terrible thing at all. They provide exercises for  parents to help them realize the limitations of their influence over their child.

They recognize that parents of these children are psychologically traumatized by their previous encounters with the police or courts, and when sensing new problems, their anxiety can turn into panic and depression.

They try to mitigate concerns such as :

  • if I try hard enough I can help my child;
  • I must sacrifice to support my child;
  • no-one amongst our family or friends has ever acted so badly; and
  • if my child loved me he or she would not act this way.

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