It’s that season again when my social media feed fills with coming-of-age articles like, “Top 10 Things Your Teen Needs to Know Before They Move Out” or “Simple Things Every College Student Should Know.” List upon list of things you should verify that your budding young adult can do for themselves. A parental checklist to certify success.
In my first year with a high school senior, I was guiding my child through many unique rites of passage like applying to colleges, booking grad photos, and researching careers as we prepared for the inevitable launch into adulthood.
I expected to meet this stage of life with a sense of completion paired with the fear of sending them out into the world, but I was surprised by the pressure that I needed to quickly cram this last year full of all the life lessons and skills I might have overlooked.
My social media feed advertised these articles, and I couldn’t resist.
With each one, I felt less and less prepared to release my child into adulthood, and I questioned whether I had succeeded as a parent.
It’s like studying for a test and suddenly realizing you’ll be graded on things you didn’t practice.
My meter for measuring my success as a parent wasn’t seeing the confidence grow in my child as they conquered applications and grad requirements or the glow in their eyes as they dreamed of their future possibilities.
My success in those moments was in how many of the top 10 things I taught my child, or how many simple chores my child mastered to make them a good roommate, or whether they could_____(fill in the blank with any adult skill).
I couldn’t help myself—I kept clicking, reading, and pinning. Suddenly I was wondering if they knew enough about laundry, how to tell if meat was cooked properly, or could handle banking.
Meanwhile, my teenager was learning how to fill out applications for both college and a summer job, making their own lists of things to pack, working hard to get volunteer hours in, and keeping their grades up. They were advocating for themselves over school homework and due dates, managing group projects, keeping up with deadlines for scholarship applications, and prioritizing their mental health.
When I looked at all they were learning this year, I finally had to ignore the lure of those headlines and remind myself this final year wasn’t meant for cramming for a parenting final.
It wasn’t time to fit in every detail they might need to know into a few months before graduation.
And it most certainly wasn’t time to doubt myself . . . or my teen.
When I taught them to be kind and work hard at communication, I prepared them to live with a roommate, communicate well with a boss, and advocate for themselves at school or anywhere in life.
When I taught them to practice grace, I taught them to get along with people they encounter whether on a job site or classroom.
When I taught them to make decisions and stick to them, I gave them confidence.
When I taught them to put their mental health at the top of the list, I taught them to make decisions that were best for them regardless of what their friends were doing.
When I taught them there was no shame in asking for help, I gave them tools to find answers for anything that comes their way.
So, relax. We made our way into the world without Google. Not only do our children have the assistance of the vast knowledge of the internet, but they also have us just a short text away.
If they wonder if their favorite shirt can go in the dryer, they will ask. If they wonder how you make chili, they will call. If they have a question, they have resources to find an answer.
There is no reason that moving out, starting college, or even flying across the country means you need to quickly finish parenting them.
There is no rule that says they can’t learn from you a thousand miles away. There is no law stating 18 years is all you get.
I won’t lie, it’s different once they move. Instead of preventative parenting, you wait for them to ask for help. You respond with answers and advice only when they seek it. You treat them like the adult you trained them to be.
All those years of parenting are not lost on them regardless of whether they can check every adult skill off a list or not. Revel in how far they’ve come and enjoy this time without trying to sneak in a few extra adulting lessons after school every week.
And let’s face it, sometimes they will choose to learn the hard way. We did, too.