My wife and I have been parents for 18 years. Looking back, I am struck by how quickly my parenting skills became obsolete. It seems like just the other day my oldest daughter looked at me with tears in her eyes from a minor mishap and pleaded, "Please Daddy, kiss it and make it better." But for sure those days are long gone.
For now she is off to college in Pittsburgh, and what she needs from me is different. We have always focused on teaching our children how to make good decisions. From whether to have some candy to choosing their friends, we have encouraged them to own their decision. We weigh in with our opinions — often unsolicited — and reserve final veto power, but they have to make and live with their decisions.
When my daughter was home from college on spring break, she told us she recently house-sat two small puppies for a college friend. The dogs were a little crazy at first, but they settled down and then, she said, "We mostly watched movies."
"We?" I asked.
"Yeah, Mark and me" was her immediate reply, referring to her boyfriend. Her college boyfriend. She added that everything was fine until around 2am when one of the puppies jumped on the bed and started barking.
"Hmm, did that wake up Mark?" I asked, casually as I could.
My daughter looked at me with the level, steely gaze of an Old West gunfighter. She paused briefly and without batting an eye said, "He was there."
The gauntlet was thrown before me, for by sharing this story my daughter was really putting this question: You always say that you trust me to decide. Are you really going to let me make my own decisions? I realized I only had one shot, so I nodded briefly and calmly said, "I hope the dog was okay."
Some would say I folded like a cheap suit and shirked my parental responsibility. But as I see it, the reality is that she is now 18, in college, living in another city, starting her life. And what she needs from a parent continues to change as fast as she is growing up.
With a Perspective, I'm Charles Wienbar.
Charles Wienbar is outnumbered by his wife and two teenage daughters in his home on the Peninsula.