I wrote the following post in 2013 when our son, then 17, was starting to spread his wings. We had a rough few years after that post was written. His way of severing himself from the nest was full of heartache and frustration. He not only wanted to sever his dependency on his parents, he wanted to obliterate everything between us. As I look back on his adolescence, I see where my grip on him was perhaps too tight. Being the first child and all, you tend to over-parent, then look back and wonder why those things were so important to micromanage. He moved out and, really, never looked back for a year. We hardly saw him, hardly heard from him, and it broke me.
Right before my daughter moved out, she was being quite the little shit to me. Which made her moving out, when she did, super hard on me. She wasn't nearly as horrible as her brother had been, but it was hurtful. So I took a step back in order to not let things happen the way they did with her brother. I didn't want her to move out and never look back. So I took a lesson from my parenting arsenal and just stepped back and away and let her be. Reminding myself the whole time that this is what kids are supposed to do....break free and move into their own path. I have to get off the path.
So finding this post was really timely for me. Although I did step back, I didn't always follow my own advice and frequently got "on the path". Now that my son is living with us again for a few months, his perspective on his life before he moved has been interesting. We've had quite a few really meaningful talks. He told us that after he moved out on his own and had so many hardships he had to overcome himself, he realized how much we had done for him and how grateful he was for us as his parents. That meant the world to me.
This post was called "Un-parenting our 17 year old" and it's from 2/1/2013:
My son is 17. He's a really good kid. I am very proud of him. He's funny, sensitive, witty, kind, sincere, handsome, gentlemanly and smart. Of course, these are just a few of his qualities. I spend nearly every day, all day with him and have since I started homeschooling him in 7th grade. I enjoy having him home with me. He's fun.
Of course, he's a lot like other teens who are nearing adulthood. He desires his autonomy and to be treated like a grown-up. Lately I've wondered when parenting ends. Not motherhood, mind you....parenting. I know there are a lot of parents out there who continue to parent and micromanage their kids once they are adults. I also know a lot of parents who just quit parenting during the teen years because it became too hard to deal with. Both are extremes, of course. I fall somewhere in the middle and float between. There are days when it seems like everything we've taught him, he's forgotten. Ugh. Those days drive me nuts. And then there are days when all the stars and planets align and I think to myself, "Man! He's gonna be a tremendous man!"
Lately, though, my husband and I tried an experiment. We'd been having some really tough days with Scout pushing boundaries. It felt like he was really chopping away at the proverbial umbilical cord. I found myself feeling more like a nag than a mother. It wasn't that he was doing anything "bad", he was just testing and pushing. Normal stuff, but tiring nonetheless. My husband and I talked and came to several conclusions:
- He's really learned all he's going to from us. We've had him his whole life. He knows the rules. He knows the expectations. If he hasn't learned by now, well.......
- He's a really good kid. I mean, REALLY good kid. He's a rule follower, respectful, and has a good head on his shoulders. He's never in trouble and he always chooses really good friends.
- Perhaps it's time to test our parenting while he's still "in the nest". We need to be confident in how we've raised him and no better time to test that than the present when, should he falter, the consequences aren't a detrimental as they might be in the world.
You know what happened? He rose to the occasion. All the things I used to nag at him to do or say or whatever, he just did on his own without my reminder. He became accountable for himself without me asking. He was more helpful and more respectful. He even.....are you sitting down?......defended me to his sisters one day. Told them they needed to obey. I know, right? It was very cool.
It's been fun to watch. Fun to see our young man be the person we've been training him to be. Of course, he's not perfect and I'm sure once he's out in the real world, he'll have his challenges just like everyone else. This time of un-parenting has really released me, in a way, to become a friend to my son and to see that what I've worked so hard for is coming to fruition. It makes me feel more confident about launching him into the world.