My parenting role has drastically changed this year. In one short summer, I went from having a child in school to a high school graduate.
Remembering back to when I graduated, that time was important for me. I was learning who I was, what I wanted, and striking out on my own.
Now, with my child, I have taken several large steps back. The challenge has been real. I am learning to respect the silence, the need to spend countless hours by herself, and the value of her friends. I am working to be available when she needs me, but not overstep boundaries. It has been an interesting journey, and one that I have definitely struggled with.
On her journey to adulthood, B has encountered life challenges and had her heart broken. Knowing I couldn’t fix this problem broke my heart. I silently watched her process the moment, work through her emotions, make choices, and bravely face her consequences. I quietly remained on the side, trying not to pry or make suggestions.
I thought I had made the right decision. I thought my quiet approach was exactly what was needed. What 18-year -old wants their parents intervening in their life or telling them what to do? I know I did not appreciate it when my parents intervened. I felt discredited as an adult. Yet, as I watched the emotions and tears, I was reminded of B’s soft heart, and I decided I needed to intervene. I chose my time carefully, and rather than asking questions, I listened, offered hugs, and told B how proud I was of her. As she slowly became more confident in her decisions, I saw her shift into a confident adult.
When she asked me to reach out to a friend, sharing the burden of a life moment, I realized how important it is to always be supportive and encouraging with our children. We always need the love and support. No matter what age, we need a safe place to vent, process emotions, and receive emotional support. Making ourselves available to listen, truly listen, is the best gift we can give to anyone. Willingly supporting others through challenges is perhaps the second best gift we can give.
I am slowly adjusting to my new role as a parent. The signals are the same, the needs similar, but what she needs from me has changed. Being able to learn with B, to support not just her, but her friends as well, has been one of the biggest compliments of my life. The shift in how I treat her has led to a shift in her. She is making herself available to me, supporting me through the challenges I face, and encouraging me to become the best possible version of myself.
Never forget our children will always need us. How we respond is what changes. At a certain point, our children no longer want our opinions, they simply want the safety to vent, process, and adjust. Learning to give this to B is opening doors of parenting I never thought possible. Working to grow with her, to meet her where she is, is proving to be one the best journeys of my life.
Sara Orellana is a community volunteer, entrepreneur, author, amateur chef, and advocate for rescued animals. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.