Parenting: The Young Adult Years

No one is more shocked than me that I have an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old. They're both in college.  I love seeing them grow into the amazing human beings they have become and having a front-row seat to their evolution is my favorite thing.

We are inundated with a plethora of information every single day and I am fascinated with what our brains choose to retain.  Even more fascinating is how that information chooses to show up exactly when you need it.

Years ago I discovered Bassey Ikpi on these here internets.  I remembered her from Def Poetry and was happy to follow her thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.  Her writing grips your whole soul no matter the subject.   She described her bipolar disorder in such a way that I took notice.  She made it such a real thing and gave it a human face.  Because of her, I gave time to stories I read about any mental illness and didn't see it as a thing anymore.  I thought the purpose of my discovery was just to have another magical black girl to love but years later when I experienced my first anxiety attack and didn't fall to pieces, I realized that Bassey's experience prepared me for the moment.  In the midst of the scariest moment of my life when breathing didn't come naturally and it felt like a 2000 lb animal was on my chest, my brain knew to direct my thoughts to Bassey.

Not too long ago I was listening to Jen Hatmaker's podcast with her college-age children and I enjoyed it so much and again just thought it was something to enjoy.  My brain thought otherwise because like the Bassey situation, the podcast conversation showed up exactly when I needed it.  Parenting young adults, I am learning, is mostly about listening and creating safe spaces for them to come to.  It's not easy to come into adulthood but we do it and my sons are doing it.  The biggest change by far is responsibilities being shifted.

I've had to look back on my parenting to this point and something I'm very proud of is allowing my children to be who they are.  I realized very early on that changing them into who I wanted them to be would only be harmful.  Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all module.  They come to us with different needs; some are fundamental and some are very specific.

I have a very focussed first-born.  Straight A focussed.  This is a mother's dream.  Months ago I started to encourage him to socialize more.  The podcast reminded me that there is nothing wrong with being focused, it's who he is.  He will socialize when he is ready and he will find his tribe.   My last-born is outgoing and goal-oriented.  Much like his mother, he does not like uncertainty. We do not like our equilibrium messed with.  He faced his first bit of uncertainty recently and he came to me when he had trouble handling it.  He came to a safe space and I listened.  I helped him regroup and he is not off-center anymore.

My kids are my world and they are amazing.  I've been told that I spoiled them too much but what I did was listen to them.  They can tell me anything.  I don't always like it, but they know I will love them regardless and give them the grace to grow.  Their friends come and talk to me as well and that makes me happy.  Parenting young adults is new, it's exciting and it's scary but so was life as a new parent with little babies that fit my arms, so was life when they first went to kindergarten and had to navigate the big new world of elementary school, then middle school, then high school.  We survived driving lessons, first loves, first heartbreaks and everything else including divorce.  I know one day we will all three look back on these college years with fondness but for now, we are living them the best way we know how to, together.


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