What do the following positions have in common? 

Babysitter. 

Body Guard. 

Manager. 

Safety Net. 

Advisor. 

If you’re a parent, you’ve held them all or you will by the time your children dive from the nest. One day they will pay for their own phone lines and car insurance, schedule their own dentist appointments, drive through and pay for their own take-out, and do laundry in their own dorm rooms or apartments. 

Independence. 

That’s what we strive for from the moment we hold those babies in our arms. Our number one job is to teach our kids how to be strong and kind and ethical and everything they need to be to survive in our world as adults.

When each of our children arrived, they were absolutely dependent on us as their parents to care for them. It wasn’t as if Kyle could walk to the bathroom and help himself. And without any sort of hand-eye coordination to move spoon to mouth, Alek would have starved in days if we hadn’t fed him. Unable to comfort herself, Maddy just screamed 24/7, unless we held her over our shoulders. 

We were their babysitters. Only the babies did the sitting, in our arms, while we met their needs.

The toddler years weren’t much easier because my kids thought they could actually do things like pour milk, and walk down narrow stairs without hanging on to the railing, and climb on the big potty in the public restroom on a toilet seat designed for a 500-pound trucker. 

We were their bodyguards. Literally, guarding their tiny bodies from harm. 

Elementary school and middle school years ushered in personhood. Suddenly, they brought wants, ideas, and opinions to the family dinner table. Only they lacked any kind of experience to discern things like ratings on video games and movies. They didn’t realize that watching something scary for an hour could bring nightmares that lasted for months. Or that staying up all night, three nights in a row, could make them physically ill and unable to perform on that test, or in that recital or play. We knew of course. 

That’s why we were their managers. The people who nixed the fun ideas because we were able to look down the road at the not-so-fun consequences.

High School. The character-forming years. Filled with mistakes and sketchy choices. All those ideas we managed when they were younger? Now they had the ability, the vehicles, and the cash to attempt to carry them out behind our backs. And sometimes they did.

We were their safety nets. Waiting to catch them when they fell—minor goof-ups to major crisis.

Next came leaving home and making decisions for their futures. Life plans, budgets, friendships, career choices, and marriage partners. Sometimes a seemingly minor mistake led to a life we never wanted them to live. Other times, taking a chance opened doorways to an amazing future we never foresaw. 

We were their advisors, doling out the wisdom of our bad choices so they could make different decisions. And mess up somewhere else instead. 

I span the range from Babysitter to Advisor this year and it’s a weird place to be. I often have to remind myself that at eleven, Maddy should be making her own grilled cheese. But only under close supervision. And at fifteen, Alek isn’t old enough to decide if he can buy an M game for the X-Box but at eighteen, Kyle doesn’t need me to cut his steak when he visits on the weekends. 

Where are you in your quickly shifting roles as parent?

Lori Freeland is a freelance author from Dallas, Texas with a passion to share her experiences in hopes of connecting with other women tackling the same issues. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a full-time homeschool mom. You can find Lori at lafreeland.com and regularly blogging on Crosswalk.

Publication date: September 25, 2012