Today I Realized How Much My 9th Grader Can Do Without Me

As summer comes to an end each year, I find myself happily diving into back to school tasks for my two teenage boys. Those days leading up to the return to school are usually filled with me creating color coded calendars with their class schedules, setting up organization systems for studying, figuring out ways to manage homework assignments, and reviewing school maps and processes with them so they can be sure they won’t get lost on their first day.

It’s time for me to pivot to a different type of parenting with a more capable teen. (Twenty20 @JJFarquitectos)

The fall is when I feel most needed as a mom

This is often a time of year when I feel so completely alive as a mother – clear in how I am valued and where I am needed. It also is a time of when I feel stressed, overwhelmed, and alone — the weight of a successful start to the new school year resting solely on my shoulders. 

Today that weight was lifted and I am equal parts relieved, heartbroken, and proud. 

Knocking on my freshman’s bedroom door this morning to remind him to take his mandatory concussion test for athletes, I found him already deep into the test. How had he remembered to get it done without multiple texts and reminders and nagging from me? All I did was forward him an email last week with a due date and it got done.

My high school freshman can manage his responsibilities without me

Without my help. 

Later on, as he passed by me in the hallway to get a snack from the kitchen, he causally rattled off some of the other tasks he had done this morning, including figuring out when and where his socially distanced lunch breaks would be held, and completing some forms that were due by next week. How could that be?

Just an hour earlier I was knee deep in a social media thread where other high school parents (myself included) were panicking about everything from lunch to school drop off to homework. Yet, he figured it all out on his own. 

Without my help. 

Surely, I thought to myself, he would need the annual lecture about how it would be important to go to bed early tonight and wake up earlier tomorrow, enjoy a healthy breakfast, and start his first day off right. But, he beat me to the punch, telling me his detailed plan for school night bedtimes, school morning wake ups, workouts, and meals. He figured it all out. 

Without my help. 

With only a few hours to go until he starts his first day of high school, I’m finally beginning to realize that my high schooler doesn’t need me in the way he used to. 

I am no longer needed to calm any nerves about lockers not working or getting lost on the way to his class or what will happen if he doesn’t get to see his friends on his first day at a new school. I no longer need to follow him around like a trusty old herding dog, reminding him where he needs to be and what he needs to get done before and after school.

He can do that all on his own. I no longer need to review every single assignment and communication from teachers to make sure he understands the requirements. He can figure it all out on his own.

Without my help. 

Gone is the shy, timid, nervous little boy who held back tears while he boarded the school bus for his first day of kindergarten 9 years ago. Gone is the young teenager with poor self-esteem who worried if he would be made fun of on his first day of middle school 3 years ago. 

In place of the shy boy is a confident young man

Instead, standing before me is a bright, confident, and capable young man, poised to begin his high school experience, arguably the most important 4 years of his life so far. And, this young man no longer needs me to do it all for him.

It’s time for me to pivot into a different approach of parenting so that I may better respond to his shifting needs and abilities. He will always need the love and support of his mother, of course, just not in the same ways he used to.

Neither of us are quite sure yet what that will look like but I’m sure he will figure it out. It seems like these days he always does. 

Without my help. 

You Might Also Want to Read:

Dear Daughter, There is No One Way to Do High School

About Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan is a psychotherapist, college professor, creator of Changing Perspectives, and co-host of The Changing Perspectives Podcast. Jenni is passionate about exploring the topics of parenting, relationships, grief, and mental health through her writing and podcast episodes. She lives with her husband, 2 teenage sons, 3 dogs, and 2 cats in Boston, Massachusetts. You can follow Jenni on Instagram.

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