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My 28-year old nephew could really use a parent right now. He was robbed of the typical young adult parental input by the early death of his mom, my sister, when he was 21, and the remarrying of his dad who then headed off in another direction. He could use a parent right now to help him figure out which way to go next, and I am glad to stand in for a while. After all, he’s strong and can take my cabinets or the wall-mounted microwave down with barely any effort and who else am I going to get to do that?

I told him when he first came that I’d expect him to sit with me every day and talk about life, and then research ideas on the internet, and have him read books, and that we’d require physical labor of him. He said okay, so here he is. My main job as his temporary parent is to reflect back to him his own thoughts. It isn’t hard because he’s a smart guy. But in telling him what he has just told me I am playing a critical role in validating him. He is old enough to have plenty of dreams and ideas about what to do with himself, so in reflecting back those ideas to him I am offering support. I toss in my own thoughts or point out concerns by asking questions, but invariably our conversations lead him to take steps towards discerning his future without a lot of direction from me.  I do not want to be responsible for deciding his future, or insisting on anything in particular about which direction he should head, except that he be true to himself. How can he be happy doing anything but what his heart tells him to do? 

All of this seems like one of the most basic and valuable roles a parent can take no matter how old a child we are talking about.