Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Magic Number

I remember thinking, as each of my two children were placed in my arms as newborns, they would never be more PERFECT than they were at that exact moment. Over the years, I've kept it in mind, knowing full well they would make mistakes just as their fallable parents had done. We play good cop/bad cop at our house. Always have and you guessed it, I'm the GOOD cop. I've always been the emotional cornerstone of our small family and my husband the disciplinarian. Fortunately, we never had serious problems with our kids. They had a tendency to choose their friends wisely, did well in school (most of the time), and are compassionate young people of whom I'm extremely proud. We've always been quick with praise when it's deserved or willing to "have a talk" when things went wrong.

But kids do grow up and mistakes happen. What is it about our kids turning 18 and suddenly they're supposed to be grown and capable of making life decisions? The chief question kids are asked when they're ready to graduate are: where are you going to school? What are you majoring in? Honestly. I've asked those same questions but later remember the period before I graduated from high school. I had no CLUE what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. None. At 18 the world seems full of hope and possibilities and the roads ahead led in many directions. Sometimes those roads can lead a kid the wrong way and as a parent, you ache for those bad decisions. Perhaps we come face to face with our own wrong decisions and remember trying hard to climb out of that ditch in the road and getting back on track.

As parents, we want to help with that. Remember that poem that says...if you love it, let it go? Read it when I was a teenager and thought it was beautiful and applied to romantic love. I've always been a sap. But now I realize, it could just as well be talking to parents out there who have a hard time letting their children go, make their mistakes, and eventually, grow up. It's as painful as birth. As definite as death. Our kids do grow up, just some more slowly than others. Sometimes tough love is necessary, even for a loving parent. So is 18 a magic number for adulthood? Twenty? Twenty-two? Who knows?

Our backyard is full of Dove and the other day I counted around twenty babies pecking away on the ground, their mothers close by. Tiny little things. Sweet. They got out of the nest somehow, I realized, watching them. Yep. Their mothers pushed them out! Nature does have a way of taking care of those things.


  1. Yep, pushing them out of the nest is often more painful that giving birth. The consequences are so frightening...

  2. Reminds me of when I left the hospital with each one. I kept thinking how fragile the baby was and were they really going to let me just leave with her? Like shoplifting or something.

    Thanks for the reminders.

  3. It's a huge responsibility. I've learned that the older they get, the bigger their problems. The biggest instinct is to protect them but we just can't always do that. It's not helping. Just preventing them from growing up.

  4. I think 21-24 would be a better number. My SIL 'washed her hands' of her kids the minute they turned 18, and the older two floundered a bit. But her attitude was, 'they're adults now and time to act like it.' Her youngest is about to graduate from HS next week, and though he seems to have a better head on his shoulders than his older siblings, time will tell. You never know what's going to happen once they are no longer living under your room 24/7.

    And, (shameless plug here!) even good kids can still make bad decisions. That's the premise of my entire Arbor University series.

    (Getting off my soapbox now...sorry Anny and Kelly!)

  5. Hugs, honey! Your little birds will find their way. You've given them a great foundation.

  6. I believe every kid has to go through his/her growing crisis. Even the best ones. My kids were good kids, but they had their crisis. I was so puzzled and wondering if I've lost them. But they settled, finished colleges, went to grad schools, got married and had kids. Now they worry to death about their toddlers and often ask me how I copeed with them. As Cindy said, the foundation you give them is always here to pull them back to reason. But as a mother you never stop worry about their health, marriages, their kids, their jobs.

  7. All we can do is offer advice. We can tell them the mistakes we've made, but when it comes down to it, they won't grow as human beings until they fall on their face at least once. The important thing is that we've taught them well enough that they LEARN from their mistakes. What doesn't kill them makes them stronger. :D

  8. Yeah, James. I agree wholeheartedly. Lord knows, I made plenty growing up and I think they made me stronger. They learn but as a parent, watching them screw up from a distance, it's really tough. Necessary though.

  9. This is all so well said & so true!

    I guess It must be painful to watch when our children suffer, but it is equally important to let them learn the cause & the effect theory : They might feel like slapping someone & might also feel good to do so. But then they must also know that the cause that they initiate is also going to have an effect & they might be slapped back harder, which is something they might not like! So they must learn and know about the consequence of the consequence...

    When our children are young, they need our protection. But they need to be 'pushed out of the nest', just as you say here.

    When we plant a sapling , we tend to put a protective fence around it, to save it from storm & animals & cruel hands etc. But as the tree grow , that same protective fence has to be removed as it tends to become restrictive to the process of Growth!


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