My son is 18 years old—still a teen and yet headed off to a life at college where he won’t need my parenting on a regular basis anymore. He is my fourth child and I sense a familiar panic as I wonder, did he learn everything I wanted to teach him? Are the values that are most important to me shared and understood? Did I prepare him sufficiently for his independence? I understand our culture has created an extension of adolescence. We are launching our kids into a transitionary period into adulthood. In this time, they will be away from home but (hopefully) still connected as they navigate their adult world.
I wonder if my parenting thus far was graded, how would I be graded by my son, by other parenting experts, by other parents. I realize none of that matters. Life throws us curveballs and we do the best we can with what we have. Most of us realize we are not perfect and we have made and will continue to make mistakes in our role as parents.
I belong to a parents’ club at the university my son will attend in the fall, and there is a Facebook group of all the parents in his class. It’s a reminder that we are all human and want what is best for our children. I can hear the aches in the hearts of the parents as they prepare to let their children live separately from them and battle the cruel world on their own. I can hear the strong desire of every parent who posts there for their child to have a good experience in college. Many of the parents express concerns for their students about finding a good roommate, choosing the right classes, and joining the groups that will serve them well throughout their four years in college.
I know from my experience with three older children that they will grow from all the experiences of college. I know they will have pleasant and unpleasant emotions that run with high and low energy. I know they will be faced with making difficult decisions on their own in a way they have not done before.
What I don’t know is what the outcome of these next four years will be. I don’t know who he will meet and bring home to us to love and share experiences with. I don’t know what he will end up pursuing and loving to learn. I don’t know where he will head after these four years and what classes and preparations are going to serve him best as he follows a road that will unfold as he goes. I don’t know the amazing professors who will shed light on topics he will use to make the world a better place. I don’t know the insight he will gain from spending time with people other than his close-knit family.
As he navigates his path ahead, I do know I will be right here for him whenever he needs me. I will hold space for him when things don’t go his way. I will be his cheerleader when he needs motivation, and a mirror for his character when he is having self-doubt.
Whatever grade I would be given as a parent will have to wait until the end of the time I spend here on earth. I plan on being a part of my son’s life in a different way as he enters into more independent living. I hope he will stay connected with me and teach me about the world he lives in. I am excited to see all he becomes. I am excited to become the mom he needs in this chapter of his life.