My husband, Roger, and I were recently talking to some people about having young adult children. We were discussing the changes in parenting that have come with our children being more on their on and becoming young adults. The gentleman we were speaking with concurred and said, "It's a lot like driving from the backseat." We agreed, and I added, "...and we're not wearing any seat belts!" We chuckled, and moved on, but that concept really stuck with me.
For the first 17 years of your child's life, you are pretty much the one in control. When they are little, you get to dress them how you want, cut their hair how you want and tell them to eat their vegetables. You tell them when it's time for a bath and when it's time to go to sleep. As they get older, they gradually take control of more of those things, and we as parents take our hands off the wheel a little bit at a time. By the time they are finishing high school, we recognize that there is very little we have control over anymore, but we just hope that they don't realize that quite yet.
Now that our children are college-aged and mostly 'on their own' (I use that term loosely, because until they are paying all of their bills, including rent, food, car insurance, etc, they're not really on their own, they are just mostly living independently away from us - but I digress), I am learning how to be a different kind of parent. The fact is, they don't need me to tell them its time for a haircut, or that shirt doesn't fit, they just need me to listen, and when they ask, and only when they ask, give them some advice. This can be difficult for me; I like to give people my advice. Reality is, however, that they need to figure it out on their own. They have to make mistakes, and then learn from what they did wrong, so they won't make that mistake again. Nevertheless, I don't want to see my kids make mistakes, especially the same mistakes I did, but I can't drive from the backseat, I can try to tell the driver what I think they should do, but he/she doesn't have to listen to me. They are in control, but as the passenger, I have to watch what they are doing, whether I like it or not.
I think it's one of the hardest things in parenting I have had to do. The better I get at allowing them to take the wheel, the more they will learn and better off they will be. I promise I will try my very best to keep my advice to myself unless asked, if you, the children, will just remember to check in every once in awhile and let us know how it's going. Just remember, we love you and we're here to help! And if I forget to zip it.....extend me some grace, because I'm a work in progress too.