Dictionary.com defines this as a “slang phrase that means being authentic and truthful, akin to ‘keeping it real.’” Young people know the phrase well. I learned it only from The Ellen DeGeneres Show. So, I thought the title was only appropriate after realizing the milestone I reached with last month’s column. It just happened to be my 100th “The View from My Section” column for Forsyth Family. I’m very proud of this milestone, and I’ve tried to adhere to the principles of the quote in being “authentic and truthful” in my stories each month.
I started my column in 2013. My life was a little different then. My oldest son was just starting high school and my youngest son was beginning middle school. Two important milestones in their own right. As parents of older children know, these are two very different worlds. In one world, they are trying to adjust to leaving you and developing their independence in thought, actions, goals, and intentions. In the other world, they still need you. They haven’t quite developed that rebellious side completely. And so, I wrote about life events, and my slant on it was based mainly on these two worlds.
As time passed, these worlds began to change. As my oldest looked ahead towards life after graduation, my youngest was just starting the journey into high school. It was an experience my wife and I shared for the first time. This period was hectic for sure, full of constant activities, things to do, decisions to be made, advice to be given, and all just trying to manage two very different life stages happening simultaneously in our children. And last fall, during the pandemic, yet another change when my youngest son started college and my oldest son was adjusting to life as an adult.
A lot has happened in eight years as a result of all those different life stages we each went through. And with each pivotal moment, I’ve tried to learn something from the experience and, whenever possible, teach my sons lessons that hopefully will help them in the future. Looking back and reflecting on the events since I started sharing my stories, opinions, and “the view from my section” (excuse the pun) or vantage point about them, I realized I had learned yet another important lesson in parenting.
I compare the parenting experience to being in a swimming pool. In the beginning, we’re in the deep end of the pool. I know this sounds like a contradiction, but bear with me on this. We’re diving deep into our children’s lives, caring for them, teaching them, protecting them, and doing everything we can to make their lives happy and productive. We’re a part of their school activities, their homework, their after-school activities, sometimes their social lives with playdates, etc., their home life, discovering the world around them, and gently nurturing and guiding them to find their own way in the world, eventually.
And then one day, things begin to change. If we’re experienced, we recognize what it is, but if it’s our first time, it can be quite a difficult transition to navigate through. I’m referring to the time when they are reaching adulthood and they no longer need, nor do they desire, for us to take deep dives into their lives any longer. It’s at this time that, as parents, we have to make our way over to the shallow end of the pool. It’s a relief for some, a challenge for others.
If you’ve been through it, you can easily recognize which end of the pool other parents are in. Those that can’t let go of their authority tend to have a more difficult experience. And those that understand their influence is limited now, and accept it, have an easier transition.
The interesting thing is that for those that have mastered the shallow end, it’s not that they’ve stopped caring as much, or, are there any less for their children when the children need them. On the contrary, it’s just a state of mind parents enter to allow their older children to live their lives and for the parents to not worry constantly about them. The irony is, that the day you become a parent, you no longer have the ability not to worry at least some of the time over them. The trick is to learn where the line is and try not to cross it any more than you need to.
Just another thing that eight years and 100 columns have taught me. I enjoy sharing my stories and view of life in our collective worlds, and I look forward to sharing many more with you.
Happy Independence Day, everyone!
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