In a few weeks, my son will be on his way to college. At such a time, lots of parents take stock (just google “tips for parents of college students” or look for online essays on the topic).
I’m a bundle of nerves, sublimating my anxiety into buying sheet sets and collecting boxes for the car ride, one which will result in driving home without the boy who, now almost a man, was the second-grade “new kid on the block,” the diligent Eagle Scout, the senior high school student playing Macduff in “Macbeth.”
As parents, we tend to second-guess ourselves a lot along the way to such transitional times. Did we give our kids the tools they need to succeed in work, in relationships, in the challenges they will inevitably encounter? What about the times we waved the white flag when we should have stood firm, or didn’t give in and perhaps should have?
Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or have a career outside of it, you are likely to have the same questions—did I help my son or daughter navigate the rocky path to adulthood as well as I could?
At such times, you might also remember how many other people and places have influenced, and will continue to influence, your child. That English class in junior high where he was introduced to a famous British poet for the first time, one he can’t wait to study in college. The music class where she learned to play the trumpet: she’s already signed up for marching band next summer.
The music he plays when he’s hanging with his friends—and the door is closed.
The friend grappling with drug addiction. The Cub Scout trip to the mountains. The Saturdays volunteering at the hospital. The mission trip to Guatemala.
There are so many threads that weave the fabric of a life. As parents, ours is only one of them, though certainly one of the most important.
Your voice and influence won’t cease to matter when they show up at freshman orientation week. But they will be put to the test as perhaps never before. And in that way, the example you set may, ironically enough, be very important. Are you a person of your word? Are you generous: with praise, with money, with moral and psychological support? Are you a good friend? A loving spouse (if you’re married)? A person who values the authentic over the aspirational?
Part of the fun (or so I’m trying to tell myself) of being the parent of a college student is watching what happens when you become the backbeat of your child’s life, instead of the melody. I feel as though I’m cramming for a very important test…and I’m not sure how I’ll do. Ask me in a year. I’ll let you know how it goes.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on parenting from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.