I am a mother of two sons. They are now both adult men, and I am still their mother. My parenting looks very different now than it did when they were children, but make no mistake about it, they still require some parenting. This is the part of motherhood that I find most challenging, and it is the reason that I decided I wanted to write a book about the transition between parenting your child and parenting your adult child. From zero to eighteen, our children fit in our world. We make up the rules, we control their home environment, we make decisions about what we think is good for them and what isn’t, we teach, and we guide. We do our best to grow independent, caring individuals who can essentially live without us once they become adults. At age eighteen, society tells us our child should be ready to leave the nest and create a life independent of us. Suddenly, they no longer fit into our life. We now must take a step back and decipher how we, as parents, fit into their life. And they are not even sure themselves. They’re busy creating more autonomy, hanging with their friends, pursuing more education, or already working for a living. What happens now? And how does a parent suddenly turn that autopilot-nurturing light switch to OFF?
This is where I found myself asking how much is too much? How much is too little? I didn’t want to hover and interfere, I didn’t want to seem aloof and disinterested. I wasn’t sure when I could give advice. I didn’t know when I should just let them stumble and fall and learn from their mistakes. I didn’t know if or how much I was still needed. What I did know, was that I still wanted to be a part of their lives, even if that just meant that they would still enjoy spending time with me.
I spoke with other moms about this transition and they all seemed to feel the same way. We were all in limbo with our adult kids, floundering as best we could, on the sidelines, waiting for communication and direction. I decided that maybe I could write about my own experience, and then this might open the opportunity for parents to start sharing with each other, making it a less isolating experience. My eventual goal was to create an online forum for moms, and dads, to help each other through a smoother transition.
While considering this writing project, I discovered that my youngest son, at age nineteen, and attending university was in full blown crisis with a video gaming addiction. I learned quickly that not only was I required to still parent, but I was to play a huge role in rescuing him from himself and a very dark place. So, I included some of this journey into my non-fiction story, and produced a book called Seeing Through the Cracks. Eventually, I published my story online with a social media site for writers and readers and began to promote it on my own social media sites. In all honesty, it felt like I was turning over my personal diary, and I really didn’t know how it would be received. But I sensed that it had an important message for those who needed to hear it. That launch was in late December 2016, and fast forward to today, I could never have imagined the direction my book has taken me.
In mid-2017 one of the organizers for Mindfest, the annual mental health forum hosted by the University of Toronto, read my book and contacted me. She was interested in having me speak about video gaming addiction. She felt that my sharing lived experience would be helpful in starting conversations about this newly recognized topic amongst attendees. By this time, my son had battled for years with the addiction, which had turned my life sideways, and opened my eyes to the need for awareness. I didn’t see his addiction until it was almost too late. No one was talking about video gaming as an addiction at that time. I suspected something wasn’t right in his life, but I didn’t know what I was looking for. I was blindsided. And this is the very reason I felt it was important for me to stand up in front of a room of strangers and share my story.
The day I spoke, at Mindfest changed the course of my career. Doors have opened and many more requests to speak have come to me. I am now doing a one hour Talk in schools and at mental health forums throughout Ontario, creating awareness on video gaming addiction. I have done television and radio interviews, and I have joined the Balanced Technology Management Committee here in Guelph, standing behind a project that has now become a personal mission. And recently, as the World Health Organization established video gaming addiction as an official disorder, my son has also joined me in speaking at forums, to help front line workers, in mental health services to better understand.
Recently, I had my book published in paperback and it is now available to purchase on Amazon, for those who do not enjoy reading an online version. My initial purpose for writing my book still provides much value to parents transitioning into the adult world with their children, but the story has become so much more. It is my hope that many more will read my journey and learn from my experience. My goal is to now have my story create further speaking engagements in schools and mental health forums, so that I can share this much needed awareness of video gaming disorder. In talking, another family may be saved from this crisis, or a family will hear hope for treatment and recovery.
You Are Not Alone: stories of hope, by Lisa Browning