From the moment we hear our baby’s cry after giving birth, we are on a beautiful hamster wheel of stages, phases, and 24 hours of endless love for these humans we created. Long sleepless nights, doctor appointments, diapers, bottles, sippy cups, baby food, first steps, first words, first illness, first milestones, first bus ride to school to the high school diplomait’s almost impossible to quantify everything that happens during the first 18 years of life.

We’ve all had a love/hate relationship with our weekends flooded with schedulingfor us, it was Little League games, tennis tournaments, and eventually competitive baseball showcases. Every second was filled with all the extras, and sometimes we wished we could come up for air, enjoy a spring break, and take a vacation. But no, we gave up that notion for our boys, just as I’m sure many of you have, but in the same breath (say it with me), “We wouldn’t have it any other way,” because that’s what we do as parents! We show up and support; we live for the highs and lows (and boy, there were plenty of both) to allow our kids to thrive.

More times than not, I would envision a future without the frenetic pace that consumed us because, at that time, it was such a “long way off” that I allowed those thoughts to take hold. Knowing, in reality, the day the boys were to step out the door for good didn’t even seem like a possibility when looking at their young faces. And then BOOM, it arrives. Once they enter high school, the hamster wheel speeds up, it feels like a tornado has hit the house, and we’re not sure how to slow its pace.

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Once the driver’s education classes are over, and the test is complete, your kid wants a photo with the massive “P” to show they passed. Your gulp is audible to all who are in earshot. How can it be? When once you were constantly carpooling kids from here to there, suddenly you aren’t anymore. They become these independent humans, going about life without as much help as they once needed from you, and you find yourself offering to drive them when in the past, you had wished for this moment, a reprieve from the go-go-go. But once it’s in your face, you go backward in time and want it the way it was, even for a little bit.

Your heart fills with pride as graduation approaches. You are amazed at these almost adult children you reared and hope everything you instilled in them helps when life decisions come their way. But then you start to question if you genuinely taught them everything they need to know before they head off to college. Not just the laundry part, but how to handle difficult situations with roommates, professors, their health, spending, saving, and most importantly, their safety.

You cry on college move-in day. When you return home to their empty room, your hamster wheel suddenly stalled, you ask yourself, “Is this it? Will they ever need me again?”

Until the phone rings or the text comes through, you see it’s them. At first, your heart skips a beat, “Oh no, is something wrong?” before allowing yourself the joy and thinking, “Oh yay, it’s my child!” Instinctively, I think the first and am relieved when it’s the latter, and it’s just a “Hi, Mom, my classes are great!” message.

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But there have been and continue to be times when we get that first call when they need us because we are their safe spot. Thank goodness they feel that Mom and Dad are always there and interruptions are accepted. We drop everything for their call. We still worry about them, share advice when asked, worry about their whereabouts and help with specific medical questions. We continue to be their on-call life advisors.

Thank goodness parenting doesn’t end at graduationbe it high school or college. They call us first, last, and everything in between. Our kids need our experience and can either use our suggestions or not. They may disagree with our advice and go their way, but we’re still their parents. We still have that all-encompassing, beautiful job. It pays us back more than any other corporate job can. Our kids are an extension of what we have instilled in them, and no matter what their age or where they live, they know at the end of that call, there is a voice and a non-judgemental hug that burns for eternity.

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