In normal times, May and June are when you see moving vans that signify kids moving out of their dorms and into summer apartments, and U-hauls picking up basement furniture that will now be the best piece in the place. This rite of passage has been short-circuited this year of course, but there are plenty of parents whose kids will be leaving home with a year or two.
What I hear through the parent grapevine however is that, while watching your kids pack up their rooms and head off to college is certainly a milestone, the first big change happens when kids leave home on a more temporary basis – after they get their driver’s license. I don’t have any teen drivers in my household yet, but my oldest just turned 15 and is fixated on getting that first car and the freedom that comes with it.
I’ve heard several parents tell me that watching their kids pull out of the driveway was in some ways tougher than actually watching them leave home. This represents the first separation from the nest, even if they still have to return each night after working their two summer jobs all day.
In addition to Gates starting to separate from the household once he does start driving, I am also imagining the other ways the Smyth house will change once he has that freedom. As he spreads his wings and can drive around town, he can also drive his brothers around town, freeing up some of my time. Plus, he’ll get free gas from Dad if he’s doing me the favor or taking the younger boys to practices, etc.
The dynamics of the household will completely change. I’ll be worried about him of course as all parents are when their kids get behind the wheel, but the Dad Bus may not have to pull out of the driveway quite as often, leaving me with a little bit of time to fill. More freedom for your kids also means more freedom for you. I see this with my friends who have older kids all the time.
This is an important time as a parent to look around and think about what you want your priorities to be going forward. How do you want to spend the extra hour or two that used to be spent on more active parenting? Netflix? (Hey, no judgment – raising kids is exhausting!) A new fitness plan? The guitar that’s gathering dust in the basement? Finally making a dent in that stack of books? An online course that will help further your career? Golf? Quality time with your spouse? Working on the Planning Checklist we gave you? (Hey, I had to get that in!)
I don’t have to tell you parents out there that when you have kids, their schedules become your schedule. A driver’s license starts to change that, and it’s important to start taking back your time. Now that you’re not a bus driver (or cleaner of bodily fluids), I encourage you be intentional with your reclaimed time. Don’t just create extra distractions. Enjoy the fact that your kids are growing up and encourage them to, but don’t forget to take care of yourself.
And, if you or someone you know has a child leaving the home or graduating from college, check out our On Your Own video for some thoughts and guidance, and call us with any questions. We’re always here to help.
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