calls for certain provisions - "calls for" that is, if you're going to
take on doing it responsibly and well (and if you're not, then look:
it's better that you don't do it at all). You have to protect, you have
to provide, you have to set aside your own time and interests in favor
interests - at least you have to make your
interests your own. That's some of what it takes. That's some of what's
required if you're going to do it responsibly and well. That's some of
what's required if your aspirations for parenthood go beyond mere
biology. It's one thing to produce children. It's another order of
things to parent, and to do it well.
You have to be there with them through the totally dependent infant
years. You have to be there with them afterwards with advice, with
compassion, with coaching, with carefully directed nudgings and
suggestions. Even if you make a decision for them, it's prudent to make
it in such a way that they can own having discovered it for themselves.
It behooves no one, neither them nor you, for you to make up their
minds for them. And there has to be discipline. There has to be
guidance. Also in a word, there has to be consequence.
doesn't operate with rules that have no consequence. It's incumbent on
good parenting to have clear consequence be a factor in raising
Sometimes it's tough watching them learn consequence the hard way. But
the last thing you want to do is shield them from consequence.
I coached my
to learn to study independently. That was around the time they started
middle school - or perhaps it began even before then. The thing about
to learn to study, is not to continue doing it once they get it -
unless they explicitly request you do. The idea is to walk away from it
once they learn to do it for themselves - kind of like letting go of
the back of the bike they're sitting on, once they've gotten the idea
of pedaling and balancing down cold.
And then, suddenly they're grown. And they're off to college. They
don't even live in the same town as you anymore. They're living their
own lives without you. Ah, the proverbial bittersweetness
of the empty nest! You blinked ... and eighteen years (or so) of
meticulously provided family life all under the same roof, just blew
by. And now they're independent and free of you. And what worked once
in a parental role, now not only no longer works: even with the best
intentions, it now only gets in the way. The hands-off approach
replaces the hand-on approach. The recognition of the independence of
their lives, replaces their total dependency on yours. And as for
advice, suggestions, and coaching? They're all a big no-no now
except when they're explicitly requested from you - which
will happen less and less and less.
Now you've got only one job left, and it's arguably the only job of the
parents of adult
that you'll retain, that's really worth something. Indeed, all the
other earlier jobs of being a parent now pale into insignificance (and,
if you're smart, disuse) and are replaced by only this one:
The job of a parent of adult
them. That's it. That's all. No suggesting (unless explicitly
requested), no advising (unless explicitly requested). Just
That's what it takes. And that's all it takes. Any other left-over
incomplete parenting (in a word, any other left-over parents' "stuff")
will only get in their way.
But it's no longer about you. The king of the castle's tenure's ended,
and you're in between jobs. When it all ends (and it's natural that it
ends - if you like, it's written that it all ends ie when
it all ends naturally), what's left is authentic
That's the breakthrough in family. They'll figure it all out for
themselves (they'll have to: they have their own lives
now). And you get to
That's the space in which they'll figure it all out, the space which is
the greatest gift you'll ever give.