There comes a time, a very sad time, when your babies are no longer babies. You spend so much time raising your children and then they don’t need you anymore. But remember…. they do. It’s just instead of raising children, you need to start raising adults. Parenting is about the long game; the war, if you will. That’s the important thing to know about parenting. Getting through the day is about picking your battles. Winning the war is about standing strong on those battles that matter most. Bribing your kid with a smoked sausage firecracker treat to wear pajamas to school on Pajama Day is fine. Bribing your kid on the regular sends a message. Again, it’s picking your battles.
Earlier this year I wrote about raising teenagers. About how this is the time to let them sink or swim, hoping that you taught them enough to help them stay afloat. How you move more into an advisor role rather than an authoritative role. You can’t fix their problems for them anymore; you just hope that they have learned enough to figure it out or trust you enough to help guide them to the answers. That’s what you are doing when you are raising adults. When your child hits high school, they need to have the skills to “adult”. Trying to cram everything in with just 4 years to go is nuts, but a gradual lesson as they age into this milestone will make a huge difference.
For instance, when my oldest was tall enough to use the washing machine, probably around 12, he was expected to do his own laundry. I taught him how to do it, supervised him for a while, then I just trusted that he could do it. This is a life skill that he is going to need. I let him help cook in the kitchen growing up, teaching him recipes along the way. Now, he can do a decent enough job cooking some meals on his own though he’s never cooked supper for us (but I’m confident that he could pull it off). These are ways to raise an adult. I don’t want to raise him in a way where he expects his partner to take care of him. What if he never has a partner, loving the bachelor life? I’ll be damned if I’m doing laundry for my 30 year old child.
I started to “raise an adult” when they are a little younger. I was focused on how to make them into self-sufficient adults. I wanted to raise them with a solid work ethic but with compassion. It’s about the long game. Whether we like to admit it or not, everything we do as parents has an impact on the type of adult your child will become. It’s an insane amount of responsibility with an insane amount of pressure. This leads us to always second guess what we are doing. Guess what? We’re going to screw something up. Our kids are going to grow up just as flawed as we are. It’s about accepting those flaws and hoping that they learned enough from you to use their strengths.
Even in high school, our kids need us even if they don’t want to admit it. You can be firm about expectations for behavior or grades, but you have to be compassionate about the social issues that they are going to be struggling with. There’s peer pressure, bullying, and all sorts of things that will have a huge impact on your children for the rest of their lives. I can remember every bad bullying event that happened to me growing up, and it’s haunting sometimes. We have to make ourselves available to our teenagers, listening without judgement. They may not “need” you anymore, but they want you to still have their back. They still need to know that you love them. They need your support and guidance. They are not-so little adults right now and in 4 years, they will be entering college or the workforce and you need to do enough to prepare them for that.