When I hit send at the end of this article my son will have turned fourteen just a day ago and graduated from middle school, and my twelve-year-old daughter will be landing at JFK after a weeklong trip to Florida with one of her besties and her Nana Pam (which of course she had a blast – I missed her like she was gone for a year).
I can be a bit of a control freak (there I said it in black and white for all to see I admit it).
I spent this past week reflecting what it would really be like when your kids are all grown up. My husband likes to joke that when they both turn eighteen we will be partying like it’s 1999. I have a feeling we may both be crying.
The realization that they don’t need you as much anymore can be daunting. We spend so much time controlling, planning and orchestrating their daily routines and what they do. All of a sudden it just happens out of nowhere. They don’t need you to pick out their clothes, help them make a meal, they want to spend more time with friends and less time with you and they don’t want your opinion. They become tiny little know it all’s.
We all hear as new parents; enjoy the time it goes by so quickly. But, here’s a little secret: it really does.
I can remember being told how amazing my kids were at daycare. I would think to myself, who they are talking about? But, another mom truth is that our kids often act better and take on an independent role when we are not around. They become more adventurous or try something new if we are not shadowing their every move.
That can be really scary!
Our job is to raise our kids to learn to be independent so they can survive in this world. Yet, the realization that you are doing a really good job can be a source of anxiety. We may not always like what they do or the decisions they make. As a parent, it’s hard to sit by and not agree with certain things. But, we cannot control their every move (ouch)
I may cringe at outfits they choose to put on, books they choose to read for summer reading, some of the stories I endure hearing which seem like they go on for hours and are cringe-worthy at times. However, I listen because I know a time will come where they will not want to share everything; decisions about friendships (please don’t be friends with the kids whose mom I can’t stand – don’t lie we all think this) or stay on the damn sports team I just spent a gazillion dollars on the equipment ( if you haven’t said this I don’t believe you) .
As parents, we spend lots of time thinking about them hitting milestones, getting good grades, playing sports, etc… But, we are raising little humans who are going to go out in this world and interact as adults. How in the world do we give them all the tools? We have so much we have to teach our kids about the world. How do you cram that into eighteen years? As parents, we instill our morals and values. We can only pray that they take that with them as they go out into the world.
We have to watch them fail sometimes. We have to let them grow. As much as it hurts my heart I know there will be a first heartbreak, a failed test, a no to an interview for that job they really wanted. I want to protect them from any hurt or disappointments, but I know that it’s in those difficult times where character is formed.
At the end of the day, I know that I am fortunate to have amazing children. The impact of a parent on their children is so far-reaching. I try to live my life by example. We all have moments we wish we could take back, decisions we wish we did not make. I try to teach my kids we are all human and we make mistakes at times. But, it’s what we do in those times that show real character. Our influence over our children has such far-reaching implications at how they look at life and relationships (work, love, friendships).
This list is a few of the things I feel are important when raising your child. I spent many years doing family therapy in my career. The things left unsaid were what almost all families regretted.
- Fill them with so much self-love and self-respect that they don’t “need” that from the outside (It’s great to get praise and love from others; but be sure you have it for yourself)
- Resilience – the ability to bounce back when shit does not go your way ( life is not always fair-don’t live thinking that way)
- If we tell our kids to say please and thank you- model this with others and by praising them when it is due
- Model positive self-talk
- Share your expectations for them (I don’t mean telling them you want them to be a doctor) I tell my kids how I expect them to act in a restaurant, with friends, etc.
- Don’t wait to have the talk about sex, drugs and alcohol ( by the time you think they are “ready” someone else has already been talking to them about it)
- Our children will always need us but, the role we play will change throughout the years
- LEARN HOW TO SAY NO – trust me they will survive
- Let them know they do have control over their decisions, but that actions come with consequences. Allow them to make choices with guidance
- TELL THEM TO NEVER USE CREDIT CARDS
Deborah Levine-Powell is a psychotherapist in New York, where she works with teenage girls who are victims of abuse and trafficking. She is a wife and a mom to a tween and teenager. When she is not working, you can find her engaged in PTA activities, a leader at Girl Scouts, having fun with her friends and family, while serving up hot soulful dishes in the kitchen.