Amazing Grace

I am drawn to any article or essay about parenting like a dieter is to one square of dark chocolate. For good but mostly bad we crave benchmarking. I confess to reading the articles about the early parenting years with a mixture of relief and smug delight. When things aren’t going so well I like to remind myself that my children were rock star sleepers. In my memory I round up on how long they were breastfed.

On the other hand, I clip articles with titles like “How to Raise an Adult” and try hard to convince myself I'm not one of those parents involved in the college admissions mania. Inevitably a mini crisis will follow (my lie) like my 17 year old asking me if the laundry is done yet and by the way can I cut him a piece of bread. With that my mind wanders to me in his dorm room fixing him a cup of ramen noodles. I wonder if it's too late to become a family who camps or if a Swiss Army Knife would be a good 18th birthday present.

These moments of doubt are never fully rational. And they are often followed with a rant and then a new plan for making our dependent children more independent. We've had approximately 14 different plans on household chores none of which have been consistently applied. Twice daily teeth brushing continues to be a surprise.

At my kid’s school all Grade 2 students play the recorder. Some are into it, some understand it’s not a long term instrument. Having been deprived of any musical encouragement at home, my 2nd grader has taken this recorder business very seriously. Part of the drive is acquiring belts like in karate. Seven belts down, one to go and only a week left of school. The final belt of the year is for the piece “Amazing Grace.” It’s going to be close.

After much practice the notes are all there but the rhythm is still off. As an insider I have been primed to listen for “Amazing Grace” but without the right cadence a new listener would be hard pressed to place the song. It’s not bad, it’s just not “Amazing Grace.” Yet.

As parents we work hard and try to hit all the right notes with our kids but sometimes you can’t make out the rhythm. We know if we’ve been successful at potty training. It’s a lot harder to know if we’ve been successful in raising a well-adjusted adult. It’s the culmination of hitting most of the right notes and hundreds of releases of the rope - many of which seem undetectable at the time. It doesn’t all come together right away.

This week I got a call from my 17 year old. Not a text but a call. He had some news. After not getting a response to his week old email to an administrative office in Luxembourg regarding critical information needed to write his extended essay this summer, he decided to go in person. Initiative that wasn’t even my idea. I did however wave the flag that we would only be in Luxembourg for 4 days this summer and noted that because it takes 10 days to get clean shirts, I was less than optimistic about him finding the *one* person in Luxembourg with information about hybrid buses and emissions before Christmas.

As we parents are primed to do I took the call ready to problem solve. Problem was he wasn’t calling for help. He was calling to tell me that after four offices, three bus rides, and relying on his broken French, my almost adult had found the *one* person in Luxembourg with the information he needed. There was a meeting on the spot and a promise for a follow up email by the end of the week which arrived in his inbox as we spoke. All of a sudden the laundry and bread cutting weren’t such a big deal.

Before I could even offer him a ride home (as we parents are primed to reward successes) he told me he’d be home in 45 minutes because he had to stop by the grocery store. ??? He needed to pick up some fruit for his science experiment. I wanted to say “I could have done that for you” but instead I said, “Ok, see you later.”

The truth is we all overparent in some things and underparent in others. With kids on the cusp of launching into the world it’s going to be close. This week I’ve rounded up. I’ve been reminded that if we hit enough of the right notes eventually it’s going to sound like “Amazing Grace.” Not only to me as an insider but to anyone with ears to hear.