Let’s see. I started this parenting journey in my late 20s and it looks like I’ll wrap up in my mid 60s. Okay, so I do realize parenting doesn’t come with a retirement plan. But the way I figure — and my calculations could be faulty — kids should be grown and gone by the time they’re 25. This gives my youngest son, who’s about to begin kindergarten, 21 years to get it together. By then, I’ll be poised to draw Social Security and his dear old dad will have already beaten me to it. Whew! Who knew we’d be parenting in our prime and in our last quarter?
Perhaps I sound a bit insensitive and my hopes for a parenting phase-out stage is a tad unrealistic. Yet, the goal is to work myself out of the job of being, well, a parent. Of course, I’ll always be "Mama." This, along with my unconditional love, is guaranteed forever. But certainly our role should be to nurture our kids enough that when the time comes, they’re able to spread their wings and fly sky high.
Dr. Michael H. Popkin, a parenting expert, puts it plainly when asserting: "The purpose of parenting is to protect and prepare our children to survive and thrive…" Yet, it’s funny how often we subvert this goal. When my teenaged son was in elementary, I recall heading to the school on the final day of each academic year. I’d watch the kids scramble around getting prepared for the summer months as tears welled up in my eyes. Then, in melodramatic fashion, they’d stream down my face, as I reflected on the past year’s events and how my little boy was growing so quickly. This happened every single year. It’s as though I wished to stop the clock.
But, time doesn’t stop and children do grow and it’s our utmost responsibility to help them turn into successful adults.
My youngest son poignantly reminded me of my parenting job when he was about three years old. He said, "Mama, I’m going to stay with you forever. And, when I get bigger, I’ll be able to sleep with you and Daddy." On the one hand, I’m thinking "Screech!!! Pump the breaks, kid. You’re outta here when you hit 25." On the other hand, my heart warmed at the sound of this innocent child proclaiming his lifelong allegiance to his parents.
So, I gently explained that I would help him grow so that someday he could leave his childhood home, buy his own (with a big bed) and return to visit Mama and Daddy — frequently. Now, just in case this parenting phase-out plan of mine goes awry and either of my boys are living in our basement 30 years from now, Lord, please make him the best handyman in the world.
Kysa Daniels is a journalist, non-profit professional and mother of three boys. For more Adventures in Parenting and parenting tips, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.