Parenting

The Cruel Joke Life Plays on Parents

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When we made the decision to have children and eventually became pregnant with our first, everyone who was anyone came out of the woodwork to offer up their expert parenting advice. Everyone had a labor and delivery horror story to tell and I’m assuming it was meant to scare the pants off of me (it did).

Family members would tell wild tales about how it would be “payback time,” recalling-not-so-awesome moments from when I was a kid. Complete strangers would feel compelled to tell me how to handle the sudden onset of a temper tantrum in the middle of a crowded restaurant just as my hot food was arriving at the table and my face was turning 50 shades of red.

Yes, like most new parents, I learned to eat lukewarm meals and actually like them in those beginning years. I received all kinds of advice, read all kinds of books, and I’m sure made dozens of mistakes, but through all of the advice people gave me, they seemed to have left out one issue. One of the cruel and horrifying jokes played on parents who have children — the one thing that nobody really tells you about — is that one day you will have to give them up. They go off to college (assuming they don’t come home and live in your basement until their 30s), or consider a new job in another state, then, possibly, comes marriage, which I can’t and don’t want to imagine at this point. That’s my baby we’re talking about!

I adore my three children, and my first-born baby girl (I say baby girl because at every milestone I picture her when she was 12 months old) is preparing to go off to college. Of course I am proud of her accomplishments thus far and, like every parent, I want her to live her dreams. But the thought of her going away to college hasn’t been easy. Dare I say that I actually enjoy having her around?

Some of my friends who have kids getting ready to leave the nest are partying like it’s 1999. I hear a lot of, “Yes! One down and one to go until freedom!” I guess I must be the odd ball out, because I don’t feel that way at all. My heart aches at the thought of her not being around as much as it did when I was concerned about “stranger danger” and safety. (I was the “safety freak” mom who said don’t run with scissors and wear your sunscreen.) (She’ll thank me later because she’ll have beautiful skin.)

I have always been a mom first and, now that she is an official adult at 18, a friend second. Girls tend to go through a stage I like to call the “bananas” stage. They are smart with their mouths, think they know it all, and try every single fiber of your last raw eaten nerve over something as simple as a pair of jeans — but I still loved every minute of it. Thankfully, she is out of that stage.

When she turned 18, it was like the clouds parted, a rainbow came shooting down from the sky, and unicorns danced in the meadows. The change in attitude literally happened overnight. We have always had a good relationship and a mutual respect for one another and I believe that makes all the difference. Suddenly, it’s like she’s all grown up. I can still remember holding her for the first time like it was yesterday. My advice for new parents? Savor every moment, day by day, because they go from newborn to grown in the blink of an eye.

There is no handbook on how to let go of your babies. The fact of the matter is, I can be sad that my baby (or should I say young woman?) is going off to college, but I would never hold her back because of my selfish feelings of missing her. Will it be hard? Yep! Will I cry like a blubbering baby? Yep! But I know I have raised a remarkable person who has taken my advice, learned from my wisdom, and will always consider me “Mommy” — even when she’s 50 years old.

Have faith in the upbringing you gave to your children because chances are, you did a pretty good job. Remember that they will always need you and that there’s no other love quite like a mother’s love. When I look at it that way, letting go isn’t so bad.