Being a parent is weird (and hard). On the one hand, our job is to nurture our children, to give them love and a shoulder to cry on, to provide them with shelter, food and clothing, to protect them from the evils of this world, and to teach them right and wrong.
On the other hand, and I truly believe this, one of our chief roles as parents is to teach our children to be independent and self-sufficient, i.e., to not need us anymore. Call it planned obsolescence. Kind of like your iPhone.
This summer, shortly after our just-turned-17-year-old daughter packed up her car with most of her clothes, along with her Vitamix and ice-cream maker, and drove off to Long Island to work on a farm (with a bunch of twentysomethings), I realized the spouse and I had entered that second stage of parenting.
Part of me, a very large part, is enormously proud of the teenager for being so independent and grown up. (She does her homework without having to be told or nagged to do so, loves to cook and is very good at it, is a good, safe driver, and does her own laundry.)
Another part of me, though, will always see her as my little girl (and not just because she's still shorter than I am).
While I worked very hard to make sure our daughter could take care of herself, and be self-sufficient (and succeeded!), I miss being needed (for more than a cash infusion)... and the hugs (though I still get those, just not as many or as often)... and waking her up each morning with a kiss on her forehead (she now sets her alarm and gets up before I do)... and our daily after-school, or after-camp, discussions. (Since she went to Long Island, we rarely hear from her, typically only when she has a money-related question. To find out what she's been up to, we log onto Facebook and Instagram.)
True, we still have a year before the teenager heads off to college. But she has already informed us that she will be very busy this year and to basically "not wait up for her."
I am happy she is happy. (We spent many years dealing with her being unhappy, and I will take happy over unhappy every time.) And I am proud our daughter is becoming (is?) an amazing adult -- and look forward to hearing about all of the amazing adventures to come. But this being a parent thing is a lot harder than I thought it would be.