17 Years Later, Plenty of Parenting Left to Do


photo credit: Where's William Shatner? Star Wars VI via photopin (license)
photo credit: Where’s William Shatner? Star Wars VI via photopin (license)

I hated when TV networks did it.

They’d roll the credits near the end of the NFL broadcast, to give thanks to everyone on the crew and declaring that “any rebroadcast of this telecast without the express written consent of the NFL is strictly prohibited.” Go stuff it, Dick Enberg. Kiss it, Bob Trumpy.

It ain’t over, for my team, at least I hoped. Because at that point, they were usually behind.

Even down two touchdowns with 42 seconds left, it ain’t over. There’s still ball to be played. It’s like that with parenting, too. Even when your kid is 17 – especially when your kid is 17 – there’s still much parenting to do.

The scope widens, but here, with 42 seconds left, there’s much ball to be played.

I know this stage – Elise will turn 18 in November. Eighteen! She could vote and smoke. I hope my influence will make for easier decisions when it comes to both. I see a young woman closer to college than kindergarten, by far, but know she still needs guidance.

EP
EP

Sometimes, it’s not what a teenager wants to hear from us, but it’s still our duty to say it.

It’s that subtle yet persistent nudge toward study and away from Instagram.

It’s a strong message in a kind voice. It’s an ear for a story – if it’s important to her, it’s important to me. How will she come to me with bigger challenges if I didn’t take these seriously? It’s a mind to mine or pick whenever she asks. (And the restraint to fist-pump out loud when she does).

It’s speaking from the standpoint of my own failures and misconceptions, yet understanding some lessons must be learned on her own. On her schedule. At her pace. At her school.

It’s the sense she hasn’t asked for a learner’s permit because she’s uncomfortable behind the wheel. Just toss her the keys in a parking lot and give instruction and suggestion in my golf-commentator-meets-late-night-jazz-disc-jockey voice. (Soothing but not annoying? I can hope.)

It’s food choice and time management tips from the guy with tortilla chip crumbs on his shirt and Diet Coke breath as he’s writing this. And is behind his self-imposed deadline in the process.

It’s keeping pace with her life trajectory, parallel to mine by 17 degrees higher. It’s the canvas to foster big dreams and simultaneously advocate for the beauty of a semi-charmed life. It might be found in any of those college welcome kits on her floor.

Or it might not.

Other times, it’s just as it ought to be – a child becoming and adult, the lessons and love they’ve had along the way helping to direct their route.

They steer more every day, but we parents remain close, if we’re lucky. It’s nights spend in her room when she asks me to help her study – then does it on her own. “You can do your writing in here if you want, daddy.” Yes, I want. When you talk, I’ll look up.

Because this isn’t over, is it? You might even call these years crunch time.

I’m ready.

# # #

Marie of the blog Normal Everyday Life inspired this topic with her post A Birthday Wish for my Son.

parenting to do quote

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40 thoughts on “17 Years Later, Plenty of Parenting Left to Do

  1. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with having both my girls in school full time in the fall, but 18 years old is a huge step. Still like you said, she will still very much need you for guidance and more.

    1. It won’t take long, Janine, but there are 1,100 other stops along the way before 18. We’re nowhere near the end, I’d say! What a journey though. I wouldn’t change it.

  2. There is always an opportunity to parent and coach – sometimes they coach is, too. Congrats – yours is two month senior to mine – parallel lives. Have a great week.

    1. You’re right about that Clay – heck, I’d say it’s 55/45 (and sometimes that 55 isn’t from me, it’s from them.)

      let’s check in on each other in a few months and see if we’re both stills standing, friend.

  3. Mine are, as you know, both grown and gone. But I remember these days well. You are blessed with a daughter who still wants her daddy around when she’s studying – that says a lot about your relationship and the trust you have engendered over the years. Still, it’s natural to worry. It’s what we do and part of the job. Don’t you worry, Eli. She will be just fine. 🙂 Mother Hen

    1. It’s hard to imagine them grown and gone, Dorreen! I started to think about these days oh, back in kindergarten, I think. Elise and I do have this advanced understanding of each other, and I wonder if it’s just because I’ve known her so long.

      I am confident this kid has what it takes to make a happy life. And that’s the highest success I can imagine.

  4. Eli- every time I come over here, I am blown away by your words. Oh this is just soooo good. I shared it on my page. You are the best parent… your girls are SO blessed to have you.

    Game on. Over time is coming too, I’m guessing…

    1. I time it so that I save the good stuff for when you come around, CC. Seriously, I’m glad you liked this one.

      And thanks for sharing it! I’m far from the best parent, but I try not to look at the standings too much. I’m lucky to have such wonderful women in my life, and I try my best to fit the part of being their dad, that’s all.

      Overtime, extra time and penalty kicks, if the past is any indication. I’m ready.

  5. It isn’t over, no. It’s so far from over. I say this as the weepy mother of a kindergartener and a toddler, and as the daughter of a 65-year-old mother who was her mother’s child until the end. She still is, really.

  6. Mine’s been grown and gone for 18 years, I feel somewhat redundant as a parent although I’m seen as a money bin now and then. I taught him to be self reliant etc but it obviously didn’t gel. Lots of luck Mate.

      1. Sadly my experience with my own parents wasn’t as forthcoming. I found myself short of rent before payday (it’s a long story) I asked for $50, which I could pay back in a few days. Nope, you made your own bed, lie in it. (in other words you married someone we don’t like and have a child so piss off).
        I help my son when I can.

      2. I’m glad you help your son – I always had to sweat out tuition when it came due, and hoped my parents could help out a bit. Most times, they did.

      3. I know what you mean, mate. I’m happy when Elise talks about schools in the state, but if being farther away is best for her, I’ll make that sacrifice too.

  7. Aww… Now I need a tissue. My monitor got all blurry and I need to wipe it off…

    Crunch time never ends. I wish my dad were here – I’d still ask him questions. Thankfully, I have some good stand ins I can ask. 🙂

    1. I can’t get too blurry-eyed or I’ll miss something – including flying objects.

      I have a ton of questions to ask my dad, too. Some of those I just have to figure out on my own.

    1. Time to step up! Thanks April, I’m not a great dad, just a dad in a great situation. Teen years aren’t so bad really … it’s like a haunted house you imagine will be horrific, and it’s just loud and frightening but not heart-stopping. Yeah, that’s what it’s like to parent teens.

      I’d say Star Wars ranks just below (or even with ) grilled cheese and just above Indiana Jones. All are way, way up there on the list.

  8. what a beautiful love letter to your daughter, eli. she will be fine and lovely and do all the things she dreams of, and it is because of all of this love and caring you’ve provided.

    1. i guess it was kind of a love letter, wasn’t it beth? i think so much of what a girl becomes as a woman comes from within, but it’s our jobs as dads to protect it and not mess it up along the way.

  9. Wow 18!
    I recognize that request for studying help. I still do it, but more for housework. I don’t really need help, I just want company while I work. I’ll bet that she just wants you to be in the same room!

    1. I know … wow, 18.

      I love the idea that she’d just want me in the room with her. I love to just hang out and talk. But sometimes when she’s supposed to be studying, I’ll see her on her phone giggling. That’s when I have to step up and be a dad.

      Even if it turns out she’s giggling because she’s reading my blog.

      1. LOVE this! You think she’s looking at silly, girly stuff on Instagram, and instead she’s reading your blog 🙂 Hi there, Elise! Hugs from Switzerland!

      2. Thanks Tamara. She might be better off on the Instagram! When her school started the Go Fund Me project to fix the fields at school, she asked, “do you think your friend in Switzerland will help?”

        She knows how generous you are!

  10. I am my mother’s daughter and my sons’ mommy…forever and ever. I don’t think I even know how to be anything else and my choice is not to be anything but that.

    To parent and guide and love until the very end.

    Happiest of birthdays to your daughter and wow, Eli, you’re such an incredible dad. Your young daughters are lucky to have a man like you so they know what to look for, model their choices after and know they have to come to for advice, love and support.

    1. I like the idea of forever and ever – I don’t want to lose this job as dad. It’s my No. 1 duty. They’ll always need us a little, right?

      I’ll always deflect that idea that I’m a wonderful dad – I’m just a guy in it to his elbows and hoping for the best. Also enjoying the journey and what I’ve learned in the process.

      I hope they know I’ll always have their back. Otherwise, what is the rest of it worth, in the end?

  11. The hardest part of being a parent for me was when the kids were on the cusp of adulthood and taking that step across. I wanted to yank them back and say not yet! But somehow I managed to hide it and give them the encouragement they needed. (And it’s great having adult kids now, it’s a whole new dialogue.)

    Your post brought back some bittersweet memories for me Eli. Good one.

    1. We still see the kindergartner in our teenagers, don’t we? We always will. It’s the same concept as dropping them off at that first day of school, but somehow, the milestones in the late teens feels so much more colossal.

      Glad the post spoke to you, CJ. And thank you for being here and the support you’ve always give me and this blog.

  12. Hmmm, homework… Instagram… Tough!

    The fact that she lets you write in her room speaks volumes, though!! Fist-pumps!! Big ones!

    I am pretty sure studying while you’re there, unruly hair (sorry, I made that up), tortilla chip crumbs on your shirt, tapping on your notebook, will be the moments she misses the most once she is living on her own.

    I believe in role modeling. You know, doing the right thing, and the kids will get it just by growing up around you.

    Like getting up every morning and going to work, not cheating in situations you could, opening the door for somebody who is carrying lots of bags…

    And then we go and drink Coke Zero? (See, I didn’t say Diet Coke, I’m not talking about you here)

    What kind of an example is that? I’m just waiting for the day he’ll catch on the idea that he won’t eat his veggies because Mom drinks unhealthy soda. On the other hand, maybe my parenting was so awesome he will be a better person than that? Wouldn’t that be great? Thoughts?

    1. I hope she’ll invite me over to study with her or just watch Bones. I’ll even bring the tortilla chips.

      Kids watch so much more of what we do as parents than listen to what we say.

      Parenting doesn’t require us to be perfect. Parenting requires us to be real, strive for the good, and accept some of the not-so-good. Coke Zero isn’t cocaine.

      I believe a child will become a parent based on his or her own makeup, with influences from the environment and the parenting and engagement they experienced. It’s a complicated cocktail. But if we can show them a journey paved with love and selflessness and self-awaredness, we’ve done the best job we can possibly do.

  13. I have never given birth, but my niece lived with us for years. She is 26 now and still calls when she needs guidance. Children may not need you in the same way as they get older, but they will always need your love and guidance at any age.

  14. I am literally eating nacho chips (mine are lime flavoured) and drinking Diet Coke. you could not be more my people, if you were my actual people. And you even used one of my most favourite quotes too.
    as for the kids growing up thing, my eldest is 10 and I have 3 years yet to remain in denial about teen years. He wanted to cuddle with me the other night while we both read comics. I mean, I am half child myself still — what wisdom will I impart. Except to take away the DC comic and give him Deadpool vs Hawkeye…. cause I mean honestly, some things are just no brainers. 🙂

    1. That’s a good breakfast, Rore. We’re of the same tribe, clearly. Even if you spell favorite with a U.

      Teen-year denial is futile. Kids today display teen behavior as early as 8, so counting the years will do no good.

      I have a 10-year-old who wants to watch rated R movies, and a 17-year-old who calls me daddy.

      Your wisdom is vast, Rore. It begins with a comic but spills out into life.

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