Yesterday, I snuggled into bed beside my daughter. Sure, she's 17. But who doesn't like to be woken up slowly and lovingly? She was in town for a brief stint – 36 hours – before leaving again to start her new life.
I didn't want to miss a minute of it.
As you can imagine, my emotions are near the surface – all of them, it seems! I can be angry at my husband (for almost nothing, I might add) in one moment, and crying tears of joy the next.
Transitions will do that to you, especially one as difficult as your teen leaving home. As much as I like to embrace change, and as much as I'm excited to see what the world will bring next, there is something unsettling about it. It prays on vulnerability. It is a primitive part of the human experience. But I digress – that is another blog for another day.
So, yesterday was the last day that this child of mine will live in my home as a minor. She may not be “off the payroll,” as we like to call it, for a few more years, but her autonomy as a human being is about to change… forever.
The next time she comes home, she'll have been living on her own, determining her own schedule and setting her own expectations.
Hallelujah! And OMG!
As I've struggled to find the learning in this experience – for myself, for all of us – I've discovered two key principles.
- Effective parenting is about recognizing and managing conflicting interests. As a parent, my job is to navigate the paradoxes, finding the middle ground while walking comfortably at the extremes.
- Quite often, the best way to manage those conflicting interests is through ‘soft' skills, rather than hard logic. In truth, when I come from my heart, and I trust my instincts, I am my best self as a parent.
As I prepared for my teen leaving home, for example, it became clear that I needed to:
- Create time to be together, while allowing her to take her space.
- Help her prepare all the details, while giving her the space to do it her way.
It's a tricky line to walk, fraught with uncertainty and indecision. When should I step in? When should I stay back?
Sometimes my husband will ask me how to handle a certain situation, and I don't exactly know how to answer him. It infuriates him, like I'm holding back valuable “Mom knowledge.” I understand why he gets so frustrated. In truth, it's hard to answer because I rely on two intangibles to help me figure out how to walk that line: intuition, and love.
Yesterday turned out to be a long and beautiful day:
- We spent time together running errands and eating; and she had time by herself, and with her friends.
- We packed and sorted and packed some more; and I held my tongue, and allowed her to go at her pace.
- I made her gluten-free granola for her trip, and brought water and treats to keep her going (after all, I want her to want her to come home, again); and
- I followed her lead whenever possible.
All in all, I'm happy to report that things went quite smoothly. My “baby” boarded a plane today happy, confident and as ready as possible. Whew! And did I mention, OMG?!
As for me, today I've felt a bit lost, somewhat disoriented about my teen leaving home. I asked my husband, “how on earth has that been 18 years?” It's shocking, really. The good news is that I have had some practice, lately, trusting my instincts, and leading from my heart. Good thing, too. I think I'm going to use some of that love and intuition to take care of myself this week!