My friends, my oldest child got her learner’s license today. They gave my tiny baby girl a license to drive. I cannot believe this! As she was sitting there filling out her paperwork and signing her temporary permit, all I could think was “What are you people thinking?!? You are giving a baby a license to drive heavy machinery!”
I know, I know. These are rites of passage. Moments when we are hit in the face with the reality that our children are growing. They are sprinting toward the day when they fly away to college, or work, or military service. And how we behave in these moments of transition will define our relationships with our children as they grow and become adults.
Do we FREAK OUT (like I wanted to but didn’t)? Or do we remain calm and celebrate with our children as they reach a moment in life they have worked so hard for (which, thankfully, I did. Whew! Score one for me not crying or having some sort of embarrassing outburst!).
As parents, we want our children to not only love us but LIKE us, too. We want them to grow into people we want to be around and that want to be around us. Is that too much to ask? I sure hope not. I want to have that kind of relationship with my child where they are excited when I come to visit and don’t count the days until I’m gone. I want them to be happy about coming home for summer break, or holidays as they grow older.
So, how do we do that? I have a very wise colleague here at Barnhill Counseling (Sharise Amante, you are amazing!) who shared with me her experience when her first child went away to college. She said that you just have to remain flexible and let your child grow up. Don’t fight it, don’t make a big scene. Celebrate with them and provide a loving, welcoming home where they want to return to (with friends or alone). Not a hovering, demanding, expectation-filled home. But one where they are free to land and take off as they gain that freedom of adulthood. If they walk in the door and immediately have plans with friends, know that they still love you and are so grateful that you don’t lay a guilt trip on them for having a life. And know that the more you give them that space, the more likely they will be to come back to you and share experiences and hopes, and dreams, and loves and losses…and everything.
And isn’t that what we want? We want to honor what we have done as parents. We want to honor our kids for being responsible, growing, awesome, amazing people.
And as we as parents approach that intersection of transition, we can know that it isn’t going to be as painful as we think. We can celebrate with our kids and know that as we throw the party, they are looking at us with appreciation and love.
If you are heading toward a big parenting transition, know that you aren’t alone. We are here for you if you need support or direction. And keep a look out for our parenting transitions workshop in September. This will be a time to share experiences with other parents and know that we are all in this together!
Love and hugs,