When Does Parenting Really End?

When does parenting end - college

‘Tis the season for sending kids off to college. Families are packing their cars to the brim,
then having tearful goodbyes (mostly from the parents) as they send their children off into almost-adulthood. Congratulations, your job as a parent is now done!

Uh, not so fast. This is what a friend of mine recently said to me after dropping off her kiddo. So sorry, gotta tell you that isn’t the case. In fact, teenage-hood should have been the first indication that the really tough job of parenting kicks IN when children are teenagers. This is the time when they are breaking away from their parents, gaining most of their knowledge, values and sense of consequence from their buddies and the internet, which is kind of the blind leading the blind.

Once you get them through high school, which is a huge accomplishment (pat yourselves on the back, and your kids too), sending them off to college still poses challenges, even if they’re still living under your roof. You now have kids who ARE young adults, training for adult life and jobs they’ll hopefully have in about four years. Real Life is looming and it is at once enticing and scary as all get-out. Your kids will behave accordingly, wavering back and forth between being super-responsible and wanting to hide their heads in the sand (in their old room) over the intensity of it all. I get it. As a full-fledged adult I feel that way sometimes!

Some would say true parenting begins with a “+” on a pregnancy test. It absolutely starts once that child is born. But, with years of parenting behind me now, (and years more to go), I do have to laugh when my friends with babies and toddlers are frantic over getting their child to sleep through the night or to not pinch other kids in school. “Brace yourselves and pace yourselves,” I want to say to them. Parenting never really ends! It just morphs from trying to keep them alive to shaping what kind of person they will be out there in the world (which sometimes also means just trying to keep them alive).

So sorry, parents of college freshmen, you aren’t off the hook yet just because of Freshman Move-in Day. You’ll be at this parenting thing a long, long time, for better or worse.


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