Now is the time for encouragement. To help build up their parenting confidence. To trust that you have done a job that no longer requires you to be up til 2 am wondering whether or not they are home safe in their beds. Especially, not to intrude on their privacy to ask them.
I sent this question out into cyberspace to my friends and family. This is what I got in return. Here are some cut and dry, without exception, loud and clear things to absolutely never, ever, ever say to your adult children. And, children, here are the cut and dry, without exception, loud and clear responses to absolutely never, ever, ever give to your parents.
Parent: "I know you better than you know yourself."
Response: "Wow! If you really believe that, you clearly didn't do your job properly. I think I may need to speak with child protective about some mind-control issues and the massive ill effects they've had on me."
Parent: "You kids never gave me the kind of grief your children give you!"
Response: "Clearly your Alzheimers has eradicated the police reports, school detentions, and parole visits."
Parent: "You've got to take better care of yourself. If you're not around, who will take care of your family?"
Response: "Since you have the answers, I guess that would be you?"
Parent: "Are you sure you prayed about this? Because this isn't the answer I got when I prayed about it."
Response: "Yes, when I prayed, I actually asked him to give you a different answer so we could spend our evening having this debate."
Parent: "I told you not to marry him."
Response: "You also told me never to wear white after Labor Day, and so many other useful things. It must have gotten lost in the plethora of good advice you hand out so liberally."
Parent: "I brought you into this world and I can take you out."
Response: "Great. How about dinner and a show?"
Parent: "Oh, I wish you could be successful like your brother. He's done so well for himself."
Response: "Ah, yes, but his picture isn't plastered in every post office in the country, now is it? So, really — who's accomplished more?"
Parent: "Why are you spending your money on that? You don't need that. Talk to me first. I'll give you good advice. Here, let me help you make a budget."
Response: "Great! And then you can tell me about the one where gas went up to thirty cents a gallon and school lunches were a quarter. I love those stories. And please, whatever you do, don't forget to include the way you had to walk uphill both ways to school barefoot in the winter. That one's the best."
Parent: "You're an adult. Start acting like one."
Response: "By that, I'm sure you mean butt into my children's lives and belittle their choices and tell them what a perfect parent I am?"
Parent: "When are you going to settle down and get married and start giving me grandbabies?"
Response: "Just as soon as I find someone as judgmental as you are to take over for you when you're gone. You've left some mighty big shoes to fill."
Parent: "You two have been married for three years now. Isn't it about time to produce some offspring, already?"
Response: "We feel so inadequate every time we speak to you. We could never live up to the stellar job you've done and don't want to look bad next to you."
These are truthful comments from my readers. While the responses I wrote were meant to be silly, there is a point where you, as an adult child, can set some boundaries with your parents. Do it gently, kindly, respectfully and if it doesn't work, throw up your arms and love them anyway. Someday you'll live in their imaginary world and be giving your adult children sage advice.