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Susan Stiffelman

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Learning to Parent a Young Adult

Posted: 03/04/11 04:21 PM ET

1:30 am...

It's what my heart would sound like if it stepped out of my body and sang... hearing my boy singing, hearing traces of his dad's voice in his, and probably mine, and hearing/feeling/sensing that in his voice is life experience that has been his alone, unwitnessed by me, coming through the tone and timber and expression that is all his.

I close my eyes and drink it in, the miracle of it all... how from a tiny, microscopic seed a life begins and grows and becomes visible -- if barely -- and grows a spine and a heart and foot and an eyelash, and then this being makes its way out into the world, onto this spinning planet... and we get to usher it in, protecting it as best we can, nurturing it along... and then that voice calls you up at 1:30 in the morning to play you a song that is uniquely his. He wrote it, he sings it... and something about the whole thing is so monumental... there just aren't any words...

He calls again after giving me time to listen to his music; we talk till the food he ordered from an almost all-night restaurant gets delivered to him at his dorm desk shift. 5:00 in the morning his time, and he's eating ravioli, talking to his mom about music and unrest in Libya and the family dog.

This is the road I'm on, learning to parent a young adult. It's not easy, figuring out what to say, when/whether to lean forward or back, to let him know I'm there for him, or give him space and room to breathe. There's no guidebook, no manual; trust and listening are essential, which means that sometimes I get it right, and sometimes I don't.

But man oh man, when you set out on this journey, parenting a tiny, helpless baby, falling so hopelessly into love, you cannot imagine the day when they will leave your nest and set out on their own adventures. And then that day arrives, and it's hard -- impossible, really -- but as the ride rolls out, you find out it's all right, and it's so right, so perfect.

We don't hear enough about how magical it is to watch that tiny being blossom into the extraordinary person that was curled up inside, waiting to unfold in all its glory. Or how cool it is when they call you in the wee hours of the morning to play you their song.

The whole ride -- all of it -- is sweeter than I can say.

 
 
 

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