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What I learned this week is that I will never stop being a parent. It doesn’t matter that my children are adults now. It doesn’t matter that one has a family of her own and the other one is in college.  It doesn’t matter how hard I try to stay out of the middle of their lives, it just happens. The parent mode comes out of nowhere and gets me every time.

I know this is dreadful for my spawns.  The poor things must endure lectures, rants, and (gasp) unsolicited advice for the rest of my life. The kicker is that I know as I am doing these terrible things to them, they are mentally rolling their eyes and wishing I would stop my incessant chatter because they’ve heard it a million times before. And sadly, I know this because I did the same thing to my mother.

It’s just that now, I understand why she did it and why I’m doing it.  I do these annoying things out of pure love for my kids. I just can’t help myself. Parents are instinctively problem fixers for our children, so why would I change now that they are grown? I mean it started when they were little. They would get a cut, bump or bruise and come running to me to make it better. But now that they are adults, they don’t always come running to me to for help. So I go running to them. I know I’m not supposed to and many times I start off on the mad dash to their side just to stop myself mid-stride. Then stand by the sidelines with my gut clenching and my heart skipping beats while I watch the pain of their mistakes. And it totally sucks to do that. Completely and utterly sucks.

One of the hardest thing for a parent to do is to let our child go out into the big, bad world and live their own lives. So we try to save them from it as long as possible. We rant, we rave, we stalk their Facebook accounts, we listen at closed doors, we ask a million questions – repeatedly, we leave notes, we send emails, we send articles, we will even send money on occasion. We will do just about anything to keep them from falling on their faces the way we did when we were their age. And I have done all these things and probably more.

I do all this because I know that they are going to make mistakes. I know they are going to get hurt and I can’t do a darn thing about it. I realize this is just the nature of things. I know that it is the only way they are going to learn the hard lessons of life, the only way they are going to grow as a person and develop into wonderful, responsible adults. My mom did the same for me, and now I have to pass the torch to my children.

I must trust in their instincts, trust that those lessons of morals, values, and common sense I tried so hard to teach them have actually sunk in. I have to let them make their own decisions, even if I don’t agree with them. And this is not just hard, it’s extremely hard. There are times I just want to go to them and wrap them up in a big hug. One where they can’t move their arms and they can’t breathe so I can pick them up, toss them in my car and drive them home to safety. Luckily for them, I have better self-control than that. Instead I usually just write Facebook messages filled with lectures  (or sometimes threats of grounding them and other evil, parental disciplines depending on the situation) which I never send but make me feel so much better.

I delete those messages and I don’t run off to kidnap them (no matter how bad I want to) because I know I must let them go down their chosen paths, make their decisions, and be their own person. They are good kids and I know they will face life head on with a mountain of courage and dreams big enough to reach the stars. And I will walk along the sidelines, offering encouragement and support all the way to the goal line. They know, even if they don’t want to openly admit it, that I will always be there. I will always cheer their victories and share tears over their defeats. And I will annoy them with my words of wisdom and unsolicited opinions whether they like it or not because I love them.

So I say to them, I hope that one day you have children of your own that make your hair turn white, make you pace a hole in the carpet, give you multiple potential heart attacks, and most of all, make you as proud of them as you have made me.