I woke in the middle of the night and looked at my phone. No text. I checked again. Only Twitter, Instagram and email notifications. Not what I was looking for.

What I was looking for was a “Thanks, Mom, I love you,” or at least an “I love you, too” from two of my older kids no longer sleeping under my roof. As a parent of a young adult in Mexico, two college kids, and one high schooler, communicating with the kids away from home is a new experience as I climb the food chain of parenting. At least I can still make my high schooler respond to texts or guilt him into responding with some kind of mushy words to acknowledge my existence.

The older kids? Not so much.

I tried Snapchat. That just made me look like an idiot.

I tried texting humorous happenings at home.

Then I realized they weren’t responding to my desperate pleas for connection because they were doing what they were supposed to be doing:

Pulling away from me and becoming independent.

While I wanted to lecture them on responding to “I love you’s” because they didn’t know when they’d see me again, I grabbed a book that’s helping me understand this new world of parenting young adults. Who push you away. Because they’re supposed to.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I saw it coming. Seniors in high school usually push you away all year long anyway. (Don’t take any pictures, Mom, Don’t come, Mom, I don’t need you, Mom, etc). My high schooler recently texted his dad asking him to make sure I didn’t hover (Seriously? I’m not a helicopter Mom. I don’t hover. I only awkwardly hang around).

Teens tell you long before they walk across that graduation stage that they’re not your little kid anymore. They want independence. They need autonomy. That’s why they let you know you’re irritating them with every little text and phone call you make, wondering if they’re thinking of you as much as you’re thinking of them.

Oh, maybe that’s why there weren’t any text messages that night. I went to bed with them on my mind. They probably read that text saying Mom was praying for them and loved them while they were doing important stuff with their friends.

They didn’t go to bed with me on their mind.

How dare they.  That’s how it should be.

As a therapist with just 1 kid at home instead of 2 or 3 or 4, I’d be dishonest if I’d say I’ve got the goods on how to handle the lonelier nights and new adult relationships with my older kids. While I understand child development, I haven’t quiet perfected the parenting stuff in this young adult stage.

Because I’m a mom. And I still have daydreams of mushy connections, kids who rise up and call me blessed, and all that other stuff you’re supposed to get when your kids become adults (at least that’s how the dream goes). And while it is there, it doesn’t counteract the moments you want them to call, text, or say “hey!” just because you’re the most fabulous person in their life.

But I’ll share with you what I’m learning as a mom of two teens and two twenty’s.

  1. If your kids are productive, healthy, active citizens in their college or work world, be thankful.
  2. If your kids have good, healthy relationships in addition to you, be thankful.
  3. If your kids talk to and text their siblings instead of you, be thankful.
  4. If your kids need space from you but still desire relationship, be thankful.
  5. Give them space.
  6. Don’t send them weepy Snapchats or the ones with voice-changers (for some reason, they don’t like this).
  7. Call up another mom who’s weepy and weird and talk with her.
  8. Respect their pushback–with boundaries.
  9. Give them space.
  10. Let them figure things out on their own.
  11. Listen to them if there’s a real reason they’re avoiding you. Don’t assume you know all about it. Seek to understand.
  12. Ask forgiveness if you’ve wronged them.
  13. Give them space.
  14. Don’t be a doormat, but roll out the welcome mat when they come home.
  15. Check in with them even when they don’t respond. Tell them you love them. You don’t know what they’re going through on the other end.
  16. Give yourself space to grieve relationship changes and your changing parental role.
  17. Give yourself grace when you feel like an old, worn out shoe.
  18. Use your new time and energy for self-care.
  19. Don’t hover or awkwardly stand around.
  20. Cry when you need to.

The transition from teen to college to young adult is the most awkward time in your parenting life, at least up until this point. With every child that transitions from dependence to independence, you’re transitioning, too.

Growing pains is what you call it. And it stinks. And you’ll get through it.

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