Parenting from a peripheral planet

The thing is – we remember when they were completely dependent on us, and we were the center of their universe.  When they're babies we're the center of their universe, and when they're teens, we're anything but.

That makes the shift to the periphery a struggle. For us, not them.

A teenager’s world may be built on a foundation lovingly laid, brick by brick, by one parent, two parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other extended family. But when adolescence arrives, our children operate from new territories, pushing boundaries and expanding perspectives. That means leaving us behind – or at the very least – in the background.

From the view on their planets, that’s where we need to be so they can own their space, their discoveries, and their accomplishments.

Parenting the elder

My first-born walked early, talked early, bubbled over with observations on everything, and left nothing unexplored. He demanded independence while still in the single digits. I gave it to him, and he lived up to it, most of the time. When he didn’t, there were consequences and lessons, for both of us. He’s now in college, and doing well, hundreds of miles away.

He calls; we Skype from time to time. I miss the commotion and conversation. Mostly, I miss him.

Parenting the younger

My younger son could not be more different. He’s quieter. A dreamer. As a small child he smiled a great deal, spoke little, and was content to stick close. When he was four, we discovered he’d taught himself to read. At five, he picked up a pen and began to draw. He’s never stopped.


This creative kid remains more mysterious than his brother, still exhibits head-in-the-clouds syndrome, but he’s taking initiative, socializing with gusto, and proving himself capable of responsibility and independence.

He’s also telling me when to back off, appropriately. But the distance between us is painful, for me.

The star map has changed

It’s clear that the structure of my universe is changing rapidly. My dilemma is my success story, and my son’s, in the making.

These past 18 years, parenting has been my primary job, although I maintained a corporate career for much of it, and have freelanced through the rest. As my teenagers shape their own worlds far from any orbit in which I play a role, I admit that I’m having to adjust. Being a single parent makes that more difficult.

I realize the flip side is freedom, but I’m not quite there yet. Meanwhile, I wonder how other parents are managing, especially if you have raised your children to shoot for the stars.

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    If you’ve raised them to shoot for the stars, standing back and taking on the roll of observer is a bit thrilling. Lonely at times but thrilling just the same.

    I always said that I would let go easily. That I was looking forward to seeing what my boys did with their lives as they became men.

    Now that I’m on my own and they are out on their own I’m finding it isn’t so easy to “let go.” It is something we all have to do though.

    I manage because I have no other choice than to manage. I’ve only been on my own for 10 months but as time goes by I grow more accustomed to being more an observer than a mother.

    Make no mistake though. You are only in the background until they need something from you. Every so often my oldest still allows me to mother him. Those are some very sweet times.

    I’m looking forward to when my youngest will do the same.

  2. Wendy says

    I can’t even begin to imagine what that feels like, my kiddies are all still so small and I still need to reach that stage. To be honest the only thing that I am praying for is that the teenage years will be a smooth transition, I’m not asking for a miracle though, just a smooth transition :).

    I think you should be so proud of yourself, not many single parents can say that, they raised their children successfully and singlehandedly. I think we try to raise our children to the best of our abilities whether its single parenting or both and even with both parents intact it might still end up to be a disaster!!

    However I do think the letting go part is probably a bit harder because I think as single parents we tend to overcompensate for the other parent not being around and in the end we give so much of ourselves that automatically we don’t know how to stop until we realize that they are out of the house, sailing their own boats and maybe … just maybe they don’t need us that much anymore. Which for any parent is a bit of a hard one to swallow…

  3. says

    You’re totally right. I thought it was just us! My older boy walked at 7 months (no joke, real walking — ran at 9 months) and is an athletic freak. My younger boy is the creative one. Very quiet and reserved, but always thinking. He’s been making up stories almost every day now with his little army men. Fascinating to watch, but if I interrupt him he gets pissed :-)

    My kids aren’t old enough for me to think too much about what I’ll do down the road yet. But, now that you mention it, I too teach my kids to shoot for the stars. It’s probable that they’ll grow into realms that I don’t fit. I’ll probably be the clingy parent that follows them around in a mobile home their whole life :-)

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