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Parenting younger children was easier to me than parenting young adults and then partnering with adult children.

My husband’s and my principals and values in raising toddlers were in sync with each other. We both saw the importance of structure and routine, being that type naturally ourselves. We walked the walk of a healthy lifestyle with daily outdoor play/exercise, healthy meals and snacks (albeit with sweets daily!), a bedtime routine, and the same time to bed each night. He and I, and thereby our children, rose early and retired early after a full day.

We live in moderation – we don’t spend too much, eat too much, talk too much, play too much, or work too much. We were cautious and (overly?) attentive parents. We set the tone for our household based on who we were and expected a mutual respect, civility, kindness, and calm.

We are free thinkers and allowed our children always to talk and debate their ideas. Our children have labeled us “authoritative” parents, something they learned in high school psychology class which means we:

  • listen to our children

  • encourage independence

  • place limits, consequences and expectations on our children’s behavior

  • express warmth and nurturance

  • allow children to express opinions

As introverts, we all understood the need for time alone so there was always that space as they grew up. That space fostered their discovery of their creative selves. Creativity is as human as breathing, in my opinion. It’s just that some open the space to see and feel it, and others keep themselves too caught up in busyness to let it shine through them.

Neither child was a follower….just like their parents. I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

But then they became teenagers and the expectations, vocally shared by high schools and adult friends, increased. We felt the strain of pushing our kids into the right sports and activities, to get into good colleges, into the right courses and the right levels. There are lots of opinions from other parents circulating – he needs this sort of school or this sort of major to be successful and find a job; he needs a city; he needs a small college; he needs a large college; the state university for financial reasons; a private college for the potential of getting more money in aid; an ivy league school.

I’ve gotten the impression that we parents are wrong if we let the students pick the majors and colleges that jazz them, if we let them chase dreams (the one time in their lives when maybe they can), and for letting them fall in love and follow girlfriends. We’re wrong if we let them choose based on their art. We’re wrong if we let them transfer home if they hate college. We’re wrong to let them think and decide for themselves.

And somehow, that wrongness just doesn’t work for me. The majority tells me this…so can the majority be wrong? My gut tells me to stay the course.

Each of us comes to the parenting table with so many different experiences that create our mindset – how we were raised, what we felt worked, what we felt didn’t, what we want to replicate, and what we want to avoid at all costs.

We’ve raised our children according to our principals and beliefs. Should we succumb to peer pressure now the way we’ve told them not to? Are we no longer walking our own walk?

There’s no one right answer.

This is why I say it gets more difficult when the stakes are higher and the kids are older.

Keeping children from playing in the street is pretty clear cut. Forcing the lifeblood out of a young soul just beginning his foray into adulthood isn’t as clear.

Am I hurting him for not pushing him into a business degree which will allow him (possibly) to find a job, albeit one he’ll hate? I guess all we can do is continue to follow our own instincts, what we believe in, and how deeply we understand our children now that they’re adults.

I wish I could offer advice…but the truth is, no one knows.

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