KRISTINA BEERS: Let go so the children can grow

In the span of seven days, our oldest son returned to his second year of university and we deposited our second born at a different campus for his first year of university.

Now, before you fret this will be a ‘Woe is me, I have an empty nest’ article, let me assure you we still have three, vibrant, angst-ridden teenage boys gracing us with their all-knowing presence at home.

I walked into this week thinking, “I’ve been here before. He’s a good kid. He’s not falling off the face of the earth. He needs to take this next step to grow and mature.

He’s going to be just fine. And if he’s not, we are here.” These thoughts were followed by a practical need to follow my own Momtra, “Suck it up, Buttercup.” And yet, even though I knew what was coming, I still wasn’t ready for what I couldn’t see.

One of my girlfriends calls her firstborn the First Pancake: You aren’t really sure you have the pan hot enough, the dough thick enough or the cooking time just right. They turn out good, but not perfect. All the things I worried were ‘undone’ after watching our first drive away last year I tackled head-on to fix in my next pancake. And boy, did I ever! So I felt better as we prepared for this week.

The problem was, all the things I thought needed fixing in one were not an issue for the second, so the slam of emotion and wanting to take him back home for just another week, month, whatever, was present all over again. The root of it all boils down to my wanting to protect him from the world. Protect him from insecurity. From failure. From mean people. From worry.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what he needs in order to learn; to put the finishing touches on everything a solid home with unconditional love began.

One of my running phrases is, “I’m in the ‘refinery’ business.” Our children are gifts that enhance each aspect of life for us, but they came to us as raw, rough material. It’s through the arguments, give and take, groundings, talks, laughter, family games, bedtime stories and hugs that each and every one grows into a caring, responsible citizen bringing truth, beauty and goodness into the world. Refineries.

I believe teenagers need their parents even more than toddlers. That makes me a busy mom! I also recognize this time of finishing isn’t over for the boys, even though they are no longer living year-round in our house. It’s just different because my husband and I are going from primary caregivers to supportive bystanders.

I see posts on social media about moms not knowing who they are after their kids are gone – and I recognize a similar tendency in myself to swing that pendulum of mommyhood toward my life wrapped all around my kids: driving, cooking, cleaning, sheltering, doing, doing, doing FOR them. That’s dangerous on so many levels, both for kids and parents. As a teenager, my son can begin to take responsibility for himself and our household.

If I’m the one making all the effort and doing all the sacrificing, I’m not teaching him anything but to let others do stuff for him. And that’s the crux of parenting teens, that line between building him up and letting him grow.

I am most definitely going through a grieving process with my boys gone, but I still get to come home to a wonderful, supportive husband, a great network of family and friends and three more boys who know everything.

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. After this introductory column, she will share her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults on the first and third Saturdays of each month on the Pioneer’s Family and Friends page.