Rules for Parenting the Half-Grown

I have a group of Mom friends who all have children my Little G’s age. We met online when we were all pregnant with these kids, and 16 years later we are still “together”.  Many of us have met in “real life” but our “pretend friendship” is strong even among those of us we’ve not met in person.

From these Moms I have learned to be a better parent.  As I began writing some rules for parenting these half-grown kids, I turned to Shannon and then to the rest of our group.  The rules that follow are an amalgamation of what we came up with.

Rules

Remember these things –

The fact that you will miss her desperately is not her responsibility nor her burden to bear.  It is yours alone. Learn to live with this.  This is where adults have to adult and kids still get to be kids, even for just a little while longer.

The fact that you are realizing that your time with her is passing faster and faster is also not anything she should be worried about.  Cry and mourn away from her, don’t add parental guilt to her already drama filled life of teenage angst and agony.

If she asks to do something with you, say yes.  She most likely won’t ask again.

This will be your loss, but her gain – remember this is a time that should be filled with joy for her as she looks forward to being on her own.

Don’t cling.

Do let her cling occasionally, but know it won’t last long. She may want to bounce things off of you; are you OK listening and NOT always giving advice? Learn how.

Go ahead and schedule time with her, and set up activities with her, but realize she has her own activities and interests.  You will regret not doing so.  Time is at a premium now.  She has friends and ‘important’ life things going on and you will have to fit into her schedule, so book time NOW.

The number one thing she needs from you right now is the security to spread those wings and the privacy and independence in order to do so.

But, she may falter at the edge of the nest.  She may change her mind 80 times.  Listen to her and believe in her decisions every time, even though it is hard each and every one of those times. It’s the 81st time you get to celebrate her, when she flies. (Remember to add a little mental kudo for yourself, since it is because you reinforced her independence that she flew!)

Add the assurance that you will be there when she falls to the ground – because she will.  These are fledgling wings, and not yet as strong as she thinks they are.  It’s OK.  (Remember, those same wings are also not as weak as you may be afraid they are.)

Be her soft place to fall.  You aren’t her parachute or her helicopter, but you are the solid person who has always been there to catch her.  She may ask for that – be willing to hear her, and if possible, occasionally, blow up the airbag for her landing.

You will doubt yourself.  You will make mistakes.  You are now realizing how many mistakes you’ve made over the years – she is not your therapist and is it not up to her to help you fix those mistakes.  Acknowledge, accept, move on. You may need a therapist, but don’t use your child as your ear or shoulder. She needs yours, but you can’t have hers.

Tomorrow is a new day, and today is one day closer to her being grown – you don’t have time for the awkward, doubting, nay-saying voice in your head.  Push it out and soak her in.

Remember hearing “the days are long but the years are short” when she was tiny?  The years are growing shorter and shorter – remember to enjoy them.  Take photos, but enjoy her live and in person more.

You never started that day journal for her.. . but it’s not really too late.  Maybe not daily but jot down those happy moments because they are things to share with her kids later (if she has them). They will remind you when you need it how wonderful it was to have her home.

Let them fail. Let them figure things out for themselves and choose their own path. We can teach, guide and support but we need to let go. It is NOT easy but it is necessary.

The irony has not escaped me that I, who did not even cry when our first went to kindergarten, am now struggling so much with the little one spreading those wings. I’ve even done this before – Little G is our second to fly from the nest.  I realize it’s a little ridiculous, but I am sometimes too overwhelmed by the sheer emotions to do anything except acknowledge, accept, and move on.

There is a big world out there, which scares and excites you for her.  Remember, that world is waiting for you to spread your wings again, too!  This time older, wiser, and with a fully grown person who you have offered to the wild. Good job!

(Many thanks to Anne, Gay, Jill, Kris, Kristin, Laura, Leanna, Linda, Melissa, Pam, Penny, Sarah, Shannon, and Trish.  And, because we will always miss her – Tabatha.)