- Buy cigarettes,
- Get a tattoo,
- Sign a lease,
- Get married,
- Join the military,
- Be prosecuted as an adult.
I hope she does 1 and 5 (but let’s wait a few years for 5), 3 is coming soon, I figure she’ll do 4 in a year or so and hope she’ll never do 2, 6 or 7.
My oldest child graduates from college tomorrow.
I can hope, pray and plead, but the decisions are now theirs. I can influence, advise and guide, but I can no longer control.
A few weeks ago, around the time of her 18th birthday, Sara Ann placed these things on my kitchen table. No more denial about this graduation thing. It is going to happen. It’s now three months and a few days until we move her into the dorm at Hendrix on August 17. Until my life changes more drastically than it has since September 20, 1988, when I became a mom for the first time.
One of my favorite songs, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, by George Harrison, has a line that says,
“with every mistake, we must surely be learning …”
I think that sums up parenting pretty well. And I’ve made my share of mistakes.
What have I learned? I’ve learned that many of the things that I thought were Really Big Things are really … not. Such as:
- Potty training Really, we make this so much harder than it needs to be. Early potty training does not equal higher intelligence. No toddler who doesn’t want to use the potty is going to do it consistently for little pieces of cereal. I promise by the time they hit puberty, you will have forgotten about the potty.
- How clean/messy they keep their room When they go to college and get a room of their own, they will either do better at it or learn to live as a slob.
- Grades in middle school Middle school demands that a family shift into survival mode. It’s the bridge between elementary school playmates with squeaky voices and classmates with facial hair and raging hormones. Boys are icky vs. Ohhhh, he is hott*. It’s a time of transition: socially, academically, emotionally and physically. More than anything, they need a safe environment, free from undue pressure.
- What they wear Beyond basic decency and modesty, let them express themselves freely. My two girls’ styles are as different as night and day; one can spend an entire day in stilettos on concrete and the other is all about Tom’s and Chacos. And both are absolutely beautiful in their own way. Their style is not an expression of you and it’s not their job to impress your friends with how nice they look.
- Shaving I’m speaking about girls here; I know next-to-nothing about boys and shaving. Let them shave when they want to shave. The main thing about shaving is talking about it. I shaved, I need to shave, Omigosh it’s been a week since I shaved! This is just not important enough to let them feel excluded about. It’s hair. Let it go.
The most important thing I have learned in 21 years of parenting is savor every moment. From the first step to the first date, there is joy in every milestone. Take a million pictures, even when it seems silly. You’ll be glad when you look back at them and you won’t remember how much they complained.
Be there with your whole heart. Shop for school supplies and prom dresses. Be the one who always drives them places and listen to them laugh with their friends. Let them mess up your house and stay up all night, even if they keep you awake. Watch them fall in love and hold them when their tender heart breaks for the first time.
Welcome each new phase; in every change is a glimpse of the adult that you’ll someday know as friend rather than child. The one who just might give you grandchildren.
*This is not a typo; two ts means he/she is really hot. Which is just like cute, but scarier.
What phases do you look forward to? Dread?