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Maturing As a Parent

I have three children, ages 19 and 16 (yes, the 16 year-olds are twins!) My older son just mailed his college deposit and will leave for school sometime in August. Thinking back over the past few years, I've just realized my children have been spreading their wings to fly away for sometime now.

Your life begins to change as your child enters high school, whether you like it or not. Boy, did I not like the changes. Many of your family's practices change, just because your children won't always be around for them. Accepting these changes as gracefully as possible is part of your maturation as a parent.

Family dinners were our first casualty. I grew up in a family that dined together every day, especially at dinner. We continued that practice when our children were younger. But sports practices, play rehearsals, invitations to friends' houses began to leave kids' places vacant at the dinner table. Or you'll get exactly the opposite ? everyone's girlfriend or boyfriend comes over unexpectedly for dinner. I've learned to plan plenty for dinner, and then enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day if everyone isn't here.

Family vacations were our second casualty. Summer school, sports camps, pre-season workouts or band camps filled up our summer schedule and kept us from vacationing as a family. We've split into smaller groups to vacation; each parent gets his own set of children to attend a family reunion or Scout camp. While this feels like a loss, it's hard to imagine a place where your child wouldn't be mortified to be seen with you! Maybe this is for the best anyway!

Parent peace of mind was our third casualty. When your child gets a driver's license, your peace of mind vanishes instantaneously until he or she proves to be responsible behind the wheel. Not only does your automobile insurance skyrocket, but your anxiety does too. My older son let us off easy; he didn't get his driver's license until he was seventeen. (Statistically, older teens are less likely to die in fatal car crashes than younger ones). My 16-year old daughter gives me fits. She says all the right things. ("Dad, I'll not take more than one other friend in the car" ? our state restricts the number of passengers younger teens can carry to limit distractions ? but caves in to peer pressure.) We take away her driving privileges when she does something dangerous, which is a pain to have to drive her around again. I told her I'd rather she hate me for the rest of her life than I have to bury her! Continue parenting to keep them safe, but not so tightly that they don't learn responsibility and earn your trust.

Your heart expands as your child matures. You have to pull back, let him or her try things and learn from successes and failures. You can't teach them vicariously; they have to learn it for themselves. Holding onto them too tightly causes them to push you away even harder, so why fight it. Let your relationship begin to blossom, and look at them as about to be minted adults and let your relationship begin to change.

Copyright 2005, Fruition Coaching. All rights reserved.

Rick Hanes is a life and career coach, writer, outdoorsman, gardener and tireless advocate for living life with purpose and passion. He founded Fruition Coaching in 2004 to lead the fight against leading lives of quiet desperation. Check his website at http://www.fruitioncoaching.com to contact him about rekindling the fire of your life!

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