I heard the joke about a man who upon receipt of the marriage certificate at his wedding kept scrutinizing the document. After a while of uncomfortable silence the officiating minister asked him what he was looking for and he said “I can’t seem to find the expiry date”!
As my children grow older and attain various milestones, I’ve had cause to ask myself “when does / should parenting “expire”?” Is it when they turn 18? 21? Get a job? Get married? Some people are quick to say “never” and while I understand that we remain our children’s parents for life, should the act of parenting have a “shelf life” of forever? It’s interesting that parents and children seem to have differing opinions on this “expiry date” matter depending on what is at stake. Let me explain – your 20 year old son wants the luxury of having a car at his disposal to “paint the town red”, believes he doesn’t need to give an account for his late night movement but wants you as the parent to fuel the car and probably fund his love life! Or your 16-year-old daughter insists that she is a big girl and should be allowed to have a later curfew than she does but argues that she is too young to fill out a visa application form for herself! Some parents on the other hand have sent their children to school in different countries trusting that they would be fine and when the children come home on holidays they begin to micro manage different aspects of the child’s life. I recall with much amusement my friend wanting to help her 19-year-old son cross the road!
While we may laugh at some of these examples; it’s a real issue that I (and I suspect a few others too) need help with. My head tells me that different “ingredients” in the “parenting mix” should expire at different times but my heart (and mouth) doesn’t always listen to my head! Letting go can be hard especially on the emotions.
As I parent, I pray for the wisdom to find the balance and the courage to let go at the right seasons of my children’s lives, knowing that I’ve done what I need to do, taught them what they need to know and reinforced the core values they need to become productive and successful individuals that are useful not just to themselves but the society they find themselves in…So help me God!
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