Of all the challenges I’ve faced in my lifetime, launching my grown kid into adulthood has been the toughest one. It all began when he turned eighteen and announced with a flourish that he was now a “legal adult.” He promptly dropped out of high school, quit a lucrative job as a Web designer, and assumed a self-absorbed, arrogant attitude worthy of a street thug. He was pumped. I was crushed.
As a single parent at the time, I had no idea how to respond to this belligerent and disrespectful stranger. My initial shock gave way to hurt, which finally exploded in outright fury.
“How could you do this to me?” I bellowed. “After all I’ve done for you!” Oh, I was the irate parent, all right. And I made it all about me.
I had lost control of both my sanity and my ability to respond appropriately to the situation. I knew I was out of my league, so I prayed for the strength to get back in harmony with my family.
My prayers were answered with startling simplicity when I realized that I couldn’t control the actions of my children any more than I could control the phases of the moon or the changes of the season. So I let go.
It was clear that my son wanted to experience the world by his rules—rules that I, in my infinite parental wisdom, knew would not work. But I decided to give him the freedom to try it his way.
“It’s a big world, kiddo,” I said, as I packed his belongings, “and now it’s yours. I’m going to give you the gift of a lifetime—the chance to go out there and sample it all.”
He looked a little baffled as I walked him to the front door, and for the first time in a long time he didn’t have anything to say. I tried to keep my voice steady as I continued my little speech.
“This isn’t exactly what I had in mind for you,” I said, “but I can’t handle your lack of respect. Since you refuse to behave with any decency, I’m setting you free. Go out there and put your rules into play. I hope it works.”
I kissed him on the cheek and gave him a huge hug.
“I love you,” I whispered. “Be safe. And remember—the door is always open.”
I watched as he walked down the front steps and loaded his things into his car. I waved as he drove away. And then I unleashed the tears.
So far, despite a minimum of grace, he’s surviving his solo flight. I swear I can still hear his wings flapping in his room late at night.