Lisa writes: Parenthood is littered with Milestone Moments. Some we see coming, like registering for the draft, buying a bra, beginning high school or shaving. They are all expected, and all powerful. Yet other childhood milestones blindside us like a two by four with the rusty nails still sticking out.
SIbling Playdates. It was a huge childhood milestone the first time my kids actually played together, real interactive sibling-as-a-playdate played together. I looked on bursting with pride and thought they would become a perfect self-contained unit, full of rich imaginary play and support and understanding. And just when I was leaning back to admire my handiwork, feeling pretty good about myself, one son bit the other and was treated with a smack in the face for his efforts. My 30-seconds of fantasy was gone and life as I was really going to know it began.
Drivers license. This one is obvious, but what I didn’t realize was how much getting a driver’s license is akin to learning to walk. The first time my teens drove out of our driveway felt like the moment they stood up and walked away as toddlers. The only difference was that, behind the wheel, I worried far more and when they drove away, they didn’t turn around and come right back. These events may have been separated by 15 years but for me, they held the same power. They were when I realized that I wouldn’t need to carry them or drive them forever.
Cooking. It is a big milestone the first time a child makes himself a meal, when they put together a sandwich, boil some pasta and pour sauce on top or fry an egg. Up until that moment, my children’s very existence depended on my culinary skills, yet once I saw that fried egg, I knew they would not starve.
Lisa writes: After high school, many of our kids go on to college. Unlike in other countries, this transition is made seamlessly and without more than a summer break. We send our eighteen year olds off to their next stage, often without knowing if they are ready to go. Many have the option to stay home and attend a local university or community college but legions march off into dormitories every year for their first real taste of living alone.
When my older kids made this journey, I was, at first, unsure as to whether they were ready to go. I looked at them over their high school years and could not fathom their independent life. But then things began to change.
How did you know your kids were ready to go?
Mary Dell writes: Parents of teenagers watch college loom larger on the horizon every day. Experts at the excellent guidebook, College Admission, encourage us to back off and free our kids to manage the application process independently. The one exception to this rule, the college road trip, is where I’ll soon be with our 17-year old daughter.
Five years ago I traveled with her older brother, a journey where the lessons far transcended each college’s printed FAQ. From this experience I know that, while our daughter tours the many campuses, I will acclimate to her growing independence and the inevitability of her ultimate departure.
Here is what I learned from the college road trip with our son, and what I will take along with me while traveling with child #2.
Lisa writes: If the only thing I told my kids about sex was to use protection, would you think me a good parent? If I had never said more about drugs than, stay away, would that have been alright? Then why is it okay that the only thing I told my kids about social media is be careful and don’t post anything that you don’t want employers, colleges and your grandparents to see. One caution, one phrase…clearly a dereliction of duty.
I told them no more about social media than this, because I knew no more. My parenting grew up with the internet, each new thing was as novel to me as it was to my kids and I never got ahead of them. Parenting at the dawn of the internet was like running in place and I envy any parent who didn’t learn about Snapchat from their child.
I know I should have done better and told my kids:
Remember my favorite line from The Social Network (of course the movie had not yet come out…) “The internet isn’t written in pencil… it’s written in ink,” and repeat it to yourself every time your fingers touch the keyboard.
Lisa writes: Ahhhh…the beauty, the certainty of 20/20 hindsight. As my youngest nears the end of high school, I have reflected upon what qualities allow kids to perform at their best and enjoy their four years to the fullest. What were the most important things I could have done for my kids, starting in perhaps sixth grade, that would have impacted their chance of surviving high school and beyond? Not surprisingly, they were not the things uppermost on my mind as my kids turned 12. If I had it to do again…
I would make sure that my child, if possible, was above average at a sport, music, art or another activity. Not get-recruited-at-a-D1-school good, but get-picked-for-the-JV-team good. Part of high school is finding your place and that is much easier to do if you are selected for the field hockey team or given a role in the school play. I know educators often advocate the benefits of being well-rounded, but competence and accomplishment breed self-esteem and social well-being.
Lisa writes: I recently read a great post on Mom 101 on how sometimes giving a kid a lollipop is just giving them a lollipop, not an exercise in regulating sugar or expressing our family’s values. She mentioned that “no” was sometimes her reflex response and that really struck a chord with me. Sometimes we have nothing to fear. It took a while before I realized that my kids were people, not a medium for expressing my worldview.
I was a mom who said no–it was my default position for all the junk my kids wanted to buy, eat and see. I came into motherhood with the view that we owned too much, our culture was slightly toxic and most of the things my kids were going to consume visually and intestinally were poisonous. Continue reading