Giving up the driver’s seat and becoming a passenger
Navigating the transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat as a parent is a complex idea. We take control the moment our children are born to nurture them, provide for them and ensure they get the very best we can offer them. What no one mentions is that from the starting point of birth you are already on a journey of slowly letting go of that control as they become more independent. The decisions you make for your child slowly over time become theirs and not yours.
Don’t get me wrong, as a parent of high schoolers we still have the final say on most things. I am talking about something else. When you have young children, you dictate their schedules, their clothing choices, their meals, and approve their playdates. The tricky part is when one day, they suddenly have an opinion about things they never cared about before. Gone are the easy peasy trips to almost anywhere when they happily put on their shoes and were excited to hop in the car and they liked it. What happens when they no longer love peanut butter and jelly for their lunches or when the song you used to sing together on the ride to school becomes a solo? When the expectation of something you were used to is no longer, you have to adjust to the new reality.
The reality is that kids transition from infant to toddler, then adolescent to teen, and with all of that comes change…big change. Clothing and style and friendships all change, and the ways you connect with your child changes too.
I can remember when my kids started detaching and becoming more independent. I learned that what goes a long way with my teens is for them to be heard on a more mature level. It is indeed a balancing act trying to meet in the middle and hold your ground on boundaries with your teen. I try to allow my kids space to feel the feels, have a conversation, and feel included in decision making. Even if a situation is non-negotiable, most of the time giving them a voice and allowing feedback is what matters to them.
I would venture to say every parent of an adult child would say if they could slow down the speed in which their children grew up they would. What a child needs changes with each developmental stage and teens are no exception. I laugh, and cry, at myself regularly when I find that after saying what I think is something really insightful or profound, my kids can deflate me in two seconds flat with a dismissal or a scoff. Wait, wasn’t there a time when everything I said was profound and intelligent and they thought I knew everything? Be patient and do not be fooled, I have learned that although it seems they are not listening when the eyes roll, they are.
As for the expectation factor, I recently spent some nights on the couch with my husband coming to the realization that our expectations versus reality were changing before our eyes. Friday nights in our house since the kids were little were always pizza and movie night and off-limits to other social engagements. We loved the idea that no one was running here or there..it was the end of the week and time to unwind.
As our girls have gotten older though, their enthusiasm for some of our old traditions has changed. They would rather be with their friends more often than with their parents and little brother, as it should be for kids their age. Nowadays, our typical Friday night looks more like dance routines and football under the lights, sleepovers, or a late-night movie that I will inevitably fall asleep watching. The new Fridays are fun because we still get to see our kids happy and doing things they love. If they ask me to tag along to places or to just hang out I am delighted. After all, I can’t always be the driver in my kids’ lives and the passenger seat can be quite fun.
I always look forward to the rare nights spent together when everyone is home safe and sound. Friday night changes sometimes, and while I miss those old days as we knew them, nothing stays quite the same. I will take these new Friday nights as they are.
Raising kids is a book and we are flipping pages every day. While the expectations of what we want and the reality of what our kids may want don’t always go hand in hand…accepting the change and pivoting to something new opens up so many more doors of bonding with our kids as they grow into independent adults.