Holding, releasing adult children

Finding Our Way Forward: When the Children We Love Become Adults, by Melanie Springer Mock (Herald Press, 2023)

Most of the first seven chapters of Finding Our Way Forward describe how many adults, including the author and her husband, try to offer direction to their teenage and young-adult children. But then in a cool twist in the final chapter, Melanie Springer Mock gives several examples of young adults stepping out in leadership in creative and courageous ways that inspire her and others.

Evoking the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 1969 song, “Teach Your Children,” Springer Mock engineers a remarkable role reversal that’s in keeping with a later line of the song: “Teach your parents well.” 

And she does so with affirmation for today’s young people, writing in the final chapter: “This generation gives me hope because they have so much to teach us. They are reforming society and culture through their creativity, activism, and compassion.” Two pages later she notes that it’s important for parents to “relinquish control of what we think [young adults] should be doing.”

Springer Mock, who grew up Mennonite, and her husband, Ron Mock, a Quaker, are the parents of four children: a daughter, Melissa, and son, Ryan, by Ron’s previous marriage, then a few years after Melanie and Ron’s 1997 marriage, two adopted sons —Benjamin from Vietnam in 2002 and Samuel from India in 2005.

Between the first and second adoption, Springer Mock became a professor of English, with a writing focus, at George Fox University, an evangelical Friends institution, in Newberg, Ore., a position she still holds.

She writes that the pandemic years were challenging for Benjamin and Samuel, as they were for many young people in the 2020-22 time frame. She broadens things as follows in the introduction:

“Those coming of age are trying to navigate run-of-the-mill young adult vagaries amid a global pandemic, with racial unrest and climate change, plus the threat of World War III, upending their lives. And those of us acting as mentors realize we don’t have a clue what we’re doing or how we can best support the young people we love as they transition to adulthood.”

In Chapter 5, “By Walking Humbly,” she describes, in poignant detail, the shock (and subsequent need for adjustment) that she and her husband, both Quakers, underwent in 2021 when Benjamin dropped out of college and entered the U.S. Navy. The experience was hard on her, but eventually she and her husband attended Benjamin’s boot-camp graduation. In light of a long embrace with her son afterward, Springer Mock writes: “I was so proud of him and the courage he exhibited in discovering who God created him to be.”

Two chapters later (“To a Deeper Faith”), she writes of her sons:

“I hope that they, like others in their generation, will find a deeper faith, one focused on Jesus and his teachings, on the Creator’s encompassing love rather than on God’s judgment, on the work to which we are all called: to do justice, love mercy, and walk with humility.”

Indeed, Springer Mock brings grace, humility and self-effacing humor to her roles as both parent and professor (she tells several stories from her students). More than once she refers to Micah 6:8 regarding justice, mercy and walking humbly with God.

There’s a personal component to my review of this book. About two -decades ago, I was at Springer Mock’s life stage. Tim, now 41, and Jason, now 39, were heading out of high school, into college and soon beginning their vocational ventures. At various points in Finding Our Way Forward, I identified with the author’s descriptions of both holding our young-adult children close and releasing them with blessing.

The final chapter begins with a story about Springer Mock co-leading a student group in Costa Rica and trying to decide if she will take the plunge on a 150-foot-high “Tarzan swing.” She ends the chapter ambiguously, poised at the precipice. I admit I felt vaguely manipulated by the “leave us hanging” ending. Overall, though, I’m impressed with the book and Springer Mock’s handling of significant subject matter that effectively, even dramatically, hits home for adults of all ages. 


Dan Shenk of Goshen, Ind., is owner/operator of CopyProof, an editing business. He is the author of You Are More Than Your Score: On Sports and Spirituality (2022).

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