Parenting can be an art of extremes. Maternal instincts link mothers of all species through all time in a pact that will stop at nothing to protect the young. Children can become our biggest challenge, our greatest reward, the object of our affection or the origin of our ulcer.
But parenting also requires compromise, meeting halfway and finding peace when reality falls short of expectations. Or letting go of expectations entirely and grabbing a hold of something much scarier: unwavering hope in an unknown future.
As your student transitions into adulthood by way of college, allow this stage to better you as a parent, a title you will never lose although the role will change. Balance is key; the intensity of your love will never dwindle, but the way it shows itself will change.
Listen more, talk less. Your student no longer needs your permission for every decision he will face. As he sorts out new options, challenges, risks and opportunities, your listening ear will benefit him more than rules, advice or even your assistance. Trust that he can find the right answers on his own, and then be his first congratulator when he does.
Temper your worry with confidence. If your student no longer lives under your roof, keeping tabs on his comings and goings is much more difficult. The unknowns for parents at this stage can be overwhelming and create a haze of worry: Who are his friends? Did he come home safely from the party last night? Is he partying too much? Will he study hard enough for his first midterms? Keep the worry in check by understanding that this is your student's journey, and even the bumps in the road and the detours can be a good thing. Hardship betters character. These formative years will set a foundation for habits, interests, relationships and values that your student will continue to build upon for the rest of his life.
Treat your student as an adult, but never forget he's your baby too. A quote attributed to anonymous author says, "There are two gifts we can give our children. One is roots, the other wings." Your student's process of learning to live independently relies on both. Watch as he gains new experiences and makes mistakes out on his own, but leave the door open when he returns needing nothing more than a warm meal, a familiar hug and a comfortable bed. Rest confidently in the roots you established for the first 18 years of your student's life, knowing that no matter how far he flies, he can always find his way home.