In truth, we’re raising adults. Not children.
By Carole Townsend
Our little nine month old granddaughter spent the night with us this past weekend, an honor bestowed on my husband and me before anyone else. I truly felt honored, because I wasn’t sure our daughter was going to be able to let go.
I thought our granddaughter would be fine, mind you; it was just mom I was worried about. I’m happy to say that the entire weekend was a glowing success, and I am in high hopes that she’ll be back for Round Two soon.
I was still relishing the memories of this heavenly weekend with our grandbaby, when the next day our youngest daughter received a letter of admissions to a prestigious northeast school for graduate study. Talk about a contrast, my friends. In one minute, I’m holding and singing to a beautiful, perfect, innocent baby, and in the next, I’m contemplating sending my own baby hundreds of miles north to a foreign land (hey, we’re from the south), to make it on her own. Without Mama. My emotions ran the full gamut, from happiness to sadness, fear to joy. But most of all, I felt love and pride in both of the girls.
Why is that, I wonder? How can I be sad about my daughter’s news about school, yet so thrilled and overjoyed for her that my heart nearly beat out of my chest when I heard the news? Here’s what I think:
We are very used to saying that, as parents, we are raising children. I beg to differ on that point. I believe that we are raising adults, from the day that we bring them home from the hospital. We encourage and celebrate independence, we try to teach them honesty and accountability and kindness. We tell them to work hard, to go the extra mile, to take pride in whatever they choose to do. And if we do a good job with teaching all of that, one day we look at them and see a young adult. A good, kind, hard-working, honest young adult.
When we do, our heart swells with pride, and we know that our job is done. Oh of course they’ll still need us from time to time, and hopefully they’ll love us forever, but the formative work of parenting – teaching, guiding, disciplining – is done. We can only pray that we’ve done it well.
So yes, when our little granddaughter left to go back home with her mommy on Sunday, we were a bit sad. She brought laughter and giggling and amazing energy into our home. And she needed us, for food, for bath, for diaper changes, and to keep her safe. We all need to be needed, don’t we?
In the same manner, we will feel a little sad when our youngest packs to go up north for school this summer. I’ve learned, though, that “a little sad” is not a bad thing. It just means that we love her and will miss her. What we’ll also feel is excitement and great pride when she heads off to school. She wouldn’t be able to make that move if we hadn’t prepared her for it. She wouldn’t be able to make that move without self confidence and self-esteem, sown in a child (in my opinion) by her parents.
We’ll see if I can live up to all this talk when she actually makes the move.
At any rate, I do think it’s more accurate to say that we raise adults, not children, as we parent. Kind of gives us a different perspective, doesn’t it?
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.