Almost 21…

When we are thick in the midst of the day to day of raising kids, it’s easy to get mired in the daily stressors and struggles and miss the joy. Raising children is not for the faint of heart and in today’s world, it seems like there are so many things out there ready to steal the joy of raising our kids.

My own parenting journey has been long and winding and at times a bit unorthodox as I found myself in the role of non-custodial mother. A role that shifted my entire view on mothering and probably made me a stronger mother as I found myself making decisions I never would have imagined, including moving to a strange state and laying down roots in that state for the sake of my son. Yet even in the most difficult years of the parenting journey that involved many tears and much legal advice, my only goal was the well-being of my son.

The bond between mother and child when healthy despite unorthodox circumstances is never broken. But there comes a point when a mother, who will forever see her kids as her babies no matter what the chronological age of the child, must step back. A mother at a certain point must step back and let her birds fly and trust that she has given her babies the tools to navigate the world and allow them to soar or fly on their own merit. There is no greater joy to a mama though when she steps back and realizes that her babies can fly and that she is merely a bystander and safe harbor. That is the place I find myself in this evening.

My son who I often refer to in this space as the college kid is in that place. He has been home for the past ten days and I am in awe of him. He will turn 21 a few short days after I turn 40 and I marvel at the young man he has become despite the many mistakes I have made along the way. I marvel at the young man he is and that he chooses freely to allow me to be a friend, confidant and yes, his mother. He tells me that he is in awe that I was already his mother when I was almost 21 yet I am in awe of how confident he is and at his ability to stand in his own truth. For the past 48 hours, my son has literally shifted roles with me and become my helper and while its been momentarily awkward, even that shifting in roles is simply part of the cycle of life.

If your babies are younger, hold em tight and savor the moments, even the challenging ones because the time passes way too damn fast. One minute, you are trying to make it through dinner and the next minute you are meeting their girlfriend on Skype and getting ready to see them off to the airport.

Adulthood is the goal

I often find myself thinking that in today’s world of hands on, feel good, kids first parenting that there is one key item that many of us are forgetting as parents. The goal is to raise healthy well-adjusted kids who become healthy well-adjusted adults. No matter how it feels at times, kids do grow up. I know firsthand when you are in the thick of the daily parenting grind and just keeping your head above water, it’s easy to think that today’s cute baby, toddler or preschooler is eons away from adulthood. The grown up years seem so far away, yet as a parent with one adult child, I know that childhood goes by a lot faster than you realize. The reality is you don’t realize how fast it goes until they start driving the family car, graduate from high school or go away to college. Then you find yourself realizing you have a few more strands of grey hair, wondering when they hell did they get there and more importantly who the hell is that adult in your kitchen at 2am? Oh, it’s the baby! Only if you are like me the baby stands a good foot taller than you, has a deep voice and isn’t really a baby anymore but as I tell my son, he will always be my baby!

Yet in today’s parenting world where many of us are trying not to repeat the harsh parenting techniques of our parents and grandparents, it’s pretty easy to get a child to adulthood without that child having any practical life skills. Since my son came home for the summer he has shared stories of his fellow classmates and dorm mates which are frankly disturbing. Kids who don’t know how to wash their own laundry who will let a dorm room start smelling like a stale locker room rather than do their own laundry. Kids who for the first time are handling their own money and freaked out because no longer can they engage in retail therapy as their parents are finally instituting limits and the kids are not only freaked out but in some cases down right depressed.

I might have chalked my son’s tales up to random occurrence’s until I stumbled across this piece in the New York Times and started thinking this is a problem. The other night I was tweeting about my son’s cooking, and had a few responses from folks surprised he could cook. Why? My son has been cooking since he was 8 or 9…at 10 he made me a wonderful meal of Cornish Game Hen and rice. Hell, last summer he shared his killer fried rice recipe with both my husband and I and it’s now a staple in our household. Just the other night he decided to make himself some General Tso’s using tofu which judging from the smell it came out pretty damn good and he made it without benefit of a recipe which is a useful skill.

The reality is there are way too many kids turning into adults who lack the ability to cook, clean, shop and balance a checkbook. We as parents just assume at some point they will learn these skills but how are they going to learn them if we don’t teach them? I am a big fan of bringing kids in the kitchen with me, even if all they are doing is watching; believe me they pick up things. A while back I shared some pictures I took of my almost six year old cleaning and a few buddies of mine were surprised…why? I grew up in a family where Saturday morning was cleaning day and even as a small kid there was always something I could do. When my girl was 4, I would give her a bucket of vinegar and water and a sponge so she could assist in wiping things. Too many times we focus on the fun stuff; carting kids here and there which is great but real world skills are even better and can be made into a no cost fun time.

Just last week my son flew to North Carolina and his return flight was delayed yet he was able to get a new flight into a different airport, by the time I knew of this situation he was already in Boston getting ready to board the train to Maine. A few years ago I would have been the one calling and rescheduling things but as a seasoned traveler and more importantly a young man he told me recently he feels this stuff is his responsibility. I admit it feels bittersweet but at the same time I am proud of him. I find he is asking for my help less often and while there is a part of me screaming Nooooo! I know it’s time to let go and let him stand on his own. He has friends who are lovely young men but who can’t navigate travel at 19 without the assistance of their parents. This is not good.
No one is saying we must turn kids into mini adults but at the same time we do our kids a grave disservice when at 18 or so they are launched into the world without a clue how to do the daily activities of life.