When I signed on to this parenting thing all those years ago I had no idea what I was getting into. Most people don’t, I suppose.
When your child is first born you are sure being a parent is the hardest thing you’ve ever done… you’re stressed and sleep deprived and utterly responsible for this little soul who depends on you for everything. You travel with a small baggage train and your schedule is dictated by something not much bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey. Everything you ever thought about yourself and your role in the world is turned upside down. You’re convinced you’ll never worry more or work harder for anything in your life. You know you’ve never loved like you love this beautiful child, and you hold on tight to those little hands.
Surely there has never been a more beautiful, more remarkable, more accomplished child in all the world?
Before you’re ready comes the time when they start to let go… they have to it seems, but you wish those fairy tale years could go on forever. Suddenly they can do for themselves… they don’t need you in that same way anymore — they bound down the driveway to the school bus without looking back and you’re glad for that. You take pride in it. Your baby has become a charmingly innocent little person who sponges up knowledge, experiences and all the best of possibilities.
They believe what you tell them. They think you have all the answers.
Turns out, the hardest parenting times are yet to come, for as we all know, the teen years are tough for all concerned, and the adult world sucks. It has mean people and fruitless effort. It’s often unfair. There’s a need for conversations about sex and drugs and racism. Classmates die, trust is broken as reality creeps in, despite your efforts to the contrary.
These days the best you can hope for is to provide a safe haven for them to come home to. Be a person they can confide in. These children bear half your genes, have had the best of your parenting efforts and the life you can give, and they want nothing more than to be different from you. And you have to let them.
So you hold your breath and watch them take those first tentative steps into adulthood. You find yourself praying like never before that they make the team, get into the school they want, have enough friends. And sometimes they don’t… coming home beaten and broken by that big, bad world out there. You bleed for them… more still because you know in your grown-up head that there’s nothing you can do to change it, to make it better. So you hug them (if they’ll let you) and try to find a valuable lesson in the bitter blow.
If you’re lucky that lesson inspires, the setback puts them on a path they might never have walked otherwise. As a parent, this is the best we can hope for as we struggle to guide our teen through the struggle to become the person they are meant to be.
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