The Many, Many Stages of Parenting

In 5 days, both of my kids will have left for college.

I remember Jake’s elementary school graduation speech in front of students and parents.  I remember every one of Blair’s dance recitals and our daddy/daughter dances.  I remember when Jake fractured his back and Blair broke her ankle and about 100 trips to the urgent care. I remember our Halloween night tradition of Buddy’s pizza, trick or treating and a ton of candy.  I remember Blair getting candy from 3-5 houses before getting tired.  I remember driving Jake to almost every ice rink in Michigan over a 13-year period.  I remember taking Blair to Belle Isle, tarot shops all over metro Detroit, Chicago, New York and too many Broadway plays to count. I remember the drama with boyfriends and girlfriends and the night Blair got sick after drinking with her friends. I remember the day we found a vape in Jake’s room.  I remember vividly the day they both got accepted to college and all the time, hard work, studying and application preparation it took to get those acceptances.     

I remember so much of my time with them.

I worked hard at being present and putting the time in with them. Committing to being the Mystery Reader for both of them at their school.  Committing to coaching baseball, hockey, flag football and the Science Olympics. Committing to learning the daddy/daughter dance for our recital.  Committing to being the MC at the elementary school talent show. Committing to being the manager of the hockey team.  Committing to the pizza and hamburger challenge with Blair and her friends.  Committing to be a part of their childhood, their growth, and evolvement. Committing to weather the storms with them and celebrate their accomplishments and joy. 

I also remember all the stages.

Her pregnancy stages. The sleep training stage. The walking and talking stage. The potty training stage. The reading and writing stage. The puberty stage. The elementary, middle school and high school stages. The acne stage.  The boyfriend and girlfriend stage. The boyfriend and girlfriend break up stage. The “I know everything” stage.  And, on and on… 

And, so another stage begins…for all of us.

Julie and I knew that the day they were born they were not “ours” to own.  They were not property that we could claim. Well, maybe we were renting them for a while before they moved on to create their own lives, but surely not owning them.    

Both of us had answered the call to help guide them on their path of evolvement. To help instill strong core values and teach them both the way to living a meaningful life. And we did all that, knowing full well they would be moving on, fully rooted in their life’s journey.

For my kids, since both are attending university out of state, they have been and will be pushed to forge new friendships, find their “People” and become part of a community. After eighteen years of mentoring, educating, coaching, supporting, stressing, questioning, and guiding, you can only hope that when you send them off into the world, you have done your job well. This new stage hits hard for all of us.  No more nightly dinners, Saturday night hockey games, UM football games together, kids laughing and screaming at all hours of the day in the house, waiting up for them to get home safe and sound, watching them leave in the morning for school, sending them off to prom and school dances, and 1,000,000 other events that we can’t help take for granted sometimes.  Everyone one of us, including the dog that lives and breathes for my daughter and who has no idea what is coming, are in for a life change. I am excited for all of us.  This stage is going to be exciting, scary, invigorating, cathartic and truly meaningful.  That doesn’t mean we can’t mourn the time past.  Experiencing the emotions associated with transitioning to a new stage is healthy, sadness, guilt, concern, and any other ones you can think of. 

When you leave the hospital with your newborn, unfortunately they do not hand you an owners manual.  Frankly, they probably should.  Considering that, I thought I would share some insights:

  1. Children like to feel safe, create boundaries and stick to them, even if it means saying ”no”.
  2. 98% of children grow up walking, speaking, reading, doing math and writing.  Don’t worry if they don’t hit their milestones when everyone does, everyone develops at a different pace.
  3. Your kid is probably not going to be a professional anything.  Stressing them out about their performance on the field, court or rink will make them hate the game.
  4. More then buying your kids a lot of stuff, the benefits of spending time with them are priceless.
  5. Listen to your children, they are wiser and more aware then you think.

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