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Parents are like bumper guards

The countdown has begun. How many days left of school? What are we going to do this summer? 

Big desk calendar, colored markers, ready, set, write it all in. Softball practices and games, swim classes, picnics, bonfire nights, fishing and backyard pool time and fun. 

Do we get to go on vacation? When our daughters were growing up they were excited for summer to start. When our youngest daughter was about 4, we were planning to go to Florida to visit their Gran. She came downstairs one day wearing her bathing suit and flip flops and carrying a little overnight suitcase.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“I’m ready to go to Gran’s,” she answered very seriously.

“Oh, well, what do you have in your suitcase?”

She opened her traveling bag to show me a pair of pajamas and sunglasses. What more do you need to go to Florida for a week? 

These days she packs a bit more on her travels, but she is very good at traveling light. May is a transitional month. We had preschool graduations. All the little ones were so proud to get their diploma and move on to kindergarten. Second-graders’ First Communions brought them closer to Jesus and eighth-grade Confirmations helped them grow in their faith. 

All through these years we were teaching, guiding and correcting them along the way. Then there were eighth-grade graduation ceremonies with everyone so excited to take the next step to high school. We helped them sort through their choices. Which classes to take, what extracurricular activities to participate in, do I have to pay my own car insurance? They made it through friendships made, friendships lost, broken hearts and their first job. Then it was high school graduation. They made it! Now what? 

All through those years our job was to be like bumper guards at the bowling alley. They roll the ball and we bounce them back to the middle. They overcorrect and we save them from the gutter. Through it all we’re cheering them on to their successes, gritting our teeth through their losses and praying constantly. Suddenly they’re going to college, a trade school, the military or getting a better job. The bumper guards come off. It’s time for them to play on the adult alley. 

Some live at home for a while, others are packing up for far-off destinations. They need to be responsible enough to make good decisions and do what’s right, efficient enough to manage their time in a balanced manner and self sufficient enough to wash their dishes, do their laundry and remember to brush their teeth. Ready or not, away they go. We smile and wave as the car rolls away down the road.

Finally, we waved our last daughter off to college. Some friends asked us, “What are you going to do now that all the kids are out of the house?”

My husband answered that one: “Everything we couldn’t do while they were home.”

It never gets easier to wave them off on their own. But, good parenting makes them self-sufficient and responsible adults. We’re so proud of them — but our heartstrings are still attached — no matter how far they soar.

PAT SINENI, of Streator, is a retired receptionist and mother of three grown daughters. She can be reached by emailing tammies@mywebtimes.com.

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