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When the beautiful becomes ugly

This should be a beautiful photo: the bounty of my parents’ farm near Corralitos. Holy basil, limes, lemons, and peppers—the bounty of late summer.

That’s the problem. This is December. The only natural bounty in this photo is the lemons and limes (which are more productive in winter). Otherwise, the holy basil should have gone to seed; the peppers should just be a memory, forlorn, brown stalks shivering in the wind.

This picture makes me sad, anxious, perplexed.

Sad because the fires raging in Southern California are directly related to the reason I am picking fresh peppers in December.

Anxious because I fear that the doomsday predictions of climate scientists are, perhaps. too optimistic.

And perplexed because I just don’t get human nature.

What does it take to get us to change our ways? How can we know if the little things we’re doing individually are having any effect at all? How can we not be angry at our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens who are not only ignoring the signs, but blithely taking part in the actions that are causing these problems?

We are a parasite killing its host.

My personal belief is that we won’t take care of this problem until we agree to spend political capital on it, and unfortunately, the people in charge are in denial. They just passed a tax bill that will stifle investment in renewable energy. They have told our automakers that they should cede our leading role in alternative fuel vehicles to China. They say that human-caused global warming is a fiction made up by scientists.

Well, this isn’t fiction. A beautiful bouquet of holy basil on my counter in December. No rain in the forecast for 10 days out. Southern California burns today; so far Northern California is safe. But for how long? And what happens when the water greening the Central Valley runs out? What will be on wintertime supermarket shelves in Washington D.C., Texas, and Iowa?

I don’t see beauty. I see a parasite killing its host.

Posted in Culture.

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How to raise boys who respect women

I hope you didn’t come here looking for answers, because this will be a column full of questions.

How is it that we’ve come so far, but we haven’t come far at all?

Before feminism, men gave women a bad deal: You stay home, forego most opportunities for self-fulfillment, have no financial or physical independence, and put up with whatever life deals you, and we’ll take care of you. It was imperfectly enforced: poor women still had to work though with little pay and no status; all women had to risk that there were men who weren’t interested in holding up the we’ll take care of you part of the bargain.

Then we got feminism, we got some basic civil rights (though they’re still not guaranteed in the US Constitution), and we got the sexual revolution. That pact between men and women was thrown out: women were then expected to work, expected to do both the jobs they used to be confined to and also their new jobs, and expected to be sexually free. Men no longer had the responsibility of taking care of women; we were supposed to be strong and take care of ourselves.

Then we got third wave feminism or post-feminism (depending on who’s defining it), and we realized that we still hadn’t quite got it right. Men were still preying on women but women weren’t being protected. Women could get jobs, but with no guarantee that they’d be treated equally once they were there. Women were supposed to be sexually available but were also supposed to take care of themselves when they didn’t want to be sexually available. No one had clearly defined the line between “flirting” and “harassing.”

How do we raise sons in this world?

I don’t know. Men are now being called out publicly for behavior they committed which was excused under the first pact (any woman not in the care of a man is fair game), and which was encouraged by the second pact (women who go out in the world are sexually available to all men).

I haven’t asked them, but I’m guessing that the moms of these men didn’t raise their sons to behave this way. Heck, maybe even their dads didn’t. (Being a dad was different 50+ years ago.)

But I’m speaking here from the perspective of being a mom. I’ve always hoped that if you are a woman who expects and receives respect from the men in her own life, and if you model that behavior in front of your sons, it will eventually take root.

Here’s the problem: It’s not like you can enforce respectful private behavior the way you do, say, manners. When your child doesn’t say please, you prompt him, right? And eventually he turns out to be a polite person (when he’s not at home, that is).

What do you do when your child starts laying the roots of private disrespect for girls in his life? Will you even see it happening? How much more influence does what your son sees in media and out amongst his friends have on his behavior? We can do our best at home, but these things don’t happen at home.

If men’s private behavior is so different from their public behavior, how can we prevent it?

Is this actually a question about raising girls?

I am in no way a believer in the men-are-victims-of-their-own-biology line of reasoning. Men can, and do, control themselves.

All humans control ourselves: We learn not to defecate in the backyard. We learn to eat in a socially acceptable manner. We learn how not to throw fits at the DMV.

None of these behaviors follows our biological programming.

So the argument that men will be men and thus women have all the responsibility for protecting themselves is b.s., pure and simple.

How can we parents make sure that our kids’ experiences are different?

Boys that sees girls as friends and people first are less likely to treat women as targets later…or so we hope!

Humans will always be complicated, and no human system is perfect. But there’s just got to be a better way.

Men should know when they are harassing a woman.

Women should feel empowered to deal with it publicly.

As a society, we’ve been in a place where any woman not directly under the care of a man was fair game. We’ve been in a place where women were assumed to have full agency and were expected to stop victimization at the hands of men. But we’ve got to get to a place where men take a responsibility for their own and other men’s actions, and where women are able to get the support they need when they can’t handle something on their own.

But what is the path from here to there?

Sorry, just questions today.

Posted in Culture, Parenting, Sexual Politics.


The Rake, otherwise known as that which keeps me up at night

A few weeks ago we got a visitor. We knew it wasn’t human, but past that, we weren’t taking bets. It sounded like someone was raking concrete….. in the forest behind our house. We wondered if it was bats. We wondered if it was a band of exotic birds that moved in because of global warming. We wondered if we’d ever sleep again.

It starts up every evening at sundown. It goes like this:

Yes, there was a cat’s meow in there, too. That’s just part of nature at our house.

But I’m writing about the raking sound. Keep focused on the raking sound, OK? Please understand that we can’t focus on much else.

I posted on Nextdoor, the source of all local wisdom. You used to have to find a wise guy with a long white beard sitting over a campfire.

Things have changed.

Anyway, my neighbors, whom I could have talked to on the driveway but instead with whom I exchanged electronic messages sent over miles to servers which then translated them and bounced them back, told me they were barn owls.

A lovely little family of barn owls living in our redwood tree.

Really? I wanted an exotic explanation, and I got barn owls.

Sure enough, my son and I went down and saw this mess under one of our redwoods:

Zoom in, enjoy the guano!

So, OK, we love nature. But does anyone know an owl sharpshooter? Because we could really use some sleep! We’ve got the white noise generator (affectionately termed the “windge” when nothing else would get our preschooler to sleep), up as far as we can stand it.

I dream of raking concrete. Really.

When I was young, I would put up with many things. I would put up with my cats sleeping on my face.

But now, having raised two children, I have my priorities. And my priorities are sleep, sleep, and sleep.

Before the barn owls, we had golden eagles. I’ll tell you, I know which kind of neighbors I prefer.

Anyone know how to serve an eviction notice on owls? Anyone want a nice home, set back from the street, super quiet?

We might have one to sell you.

Posted in Culture.


Loving and loss

I had a dream:

My family was in Paris. We were on our way to see a friend, who’d rented an apartment there on Forest Ave. (As it goes in dreams, all the street names were borrowed from Palo Alto!) My family and I were going there, but somehow we got separated and I was alone. Everyone around me was a tourist; no one knew anything. I tried to use my Google, but it kept sending me around in circles. “I know,” I thought. “I’ll call Abe!” I tried to use my phone, but it wouldn’t work.

“Oh, no,” I lamented, “I’ve lost my Abe!”

I woke up.

My favorite lil’ guy photo.

Not surprisingly, this dream happened in the early morning hours on the day that we were taking our firstborn to college. It’s a happy day, but it’s also the saddest: we’ve finished the job, and our son is leaving our house.

True: I know all the things you’re thinking. He’ll be back soon enough. He’s not going far away. This is just a natural part of life.

All true. But it’s also the official break with his childhood. It’s the official start of his adult life. It’s the very real experience of not having anyone to call on to take the garbage out.

My husband and I would jokingly call him “the man upstairs” in the last year. His bedroom was upstairs, and if we needed anything done, we’d text “the man upstairs” to get it done. It was great to have another adult in the house, but it was also clear that it was time for him to strike out on his own.

This is the sweet-n-sour taste of a job well done. When we send our kids off into the world, we feel good about it. We know that they will do the best they have with what they’ve got to start with (same as we did). We know that we’ve given all we could possibly give.

But we also know it’s an end. They’re going off to their own lives. The cycle starts again, and we think, misty-eyed, about our own college experiences.

And then they’re gone.

And we’ve lost. But we’ve also won.

Posted in Parenting.

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Parenting to avoid regret

In my previous post, I wrote about fear porn, journalism which is designed to make parents fearful of the choices they have to make now. Parents who get immersed in this crap that’s being spewed at us become immobilized, fearful that everything we do may put our children at risk in some nebulous and undefined future.

I advocated rational decision-making, in which parents make a decision based on the information they have on hand. Then, I wrote, parents should simply move on. Regretting past actions doesn’t change the past action, doesn’t change the results, and certainly doesn’t make us better or happier people.

I always want to make sure on this blog to say that I am not setting myself up as an example of perfection in parenting. I believe that parenting is a messy business, and we are all just doing the best we can with the tools we have available to us. The reason I write about it is that I feel that parents exchanging information and ideas has transformed parenting—I hope my contributions help transform it for the positive.

So here’s my:

Case study in avoiding regret

At the age of eighteen months, one of my children was diagnosed with a congenital disorder. It was a physical part of the child’s organs that did not work correctly. At the time, all the data that had been accumulated on this particular disorder said that the best practice was to put the child on a low daily dose of antibiotics and watch to see if the body would correct the problem on its own.

I had no reason to question this information. The science was sound—this was a relatively common problem and my child was in no way special or different. (Though to us, of course, he’s very special and different!)

We went with the standard treatment. He ended up taking a daily dose of antibiotics for three years, then had the problem surgically repaired once it was clear that he was in the small percentage of children in whom the disorder doesn’t correct itself with no intervention.

Simple story, right?

Like many things medical, it wasn’t so simple. The human body is incredibly complex. We may know more about how outer space works than we know about how the human body functions. Medicine is still a frontier. We think of the barbers who sawed off limbs in the 17th century as barbarians; in fifty years, doctors will probably see the doctors of today as barbarians. It’s all relative.

In the time after he went on antibiotics, data started coming in that suggested that longterm antibiotic use might have some pretty wide-ranging negative effects on the body. You may have read about the human microbiome. That’s all the stuff that’s living in your gut. It turns out that the stuff living in your gut doesn’t just affect your digestion. It may be related to, in no particular order:

  • autoimmune disease
  • depression
  • autism
  • eating disorders

And so on.

So in putting our child on antibiotics for three years, we were now learning, we may have…

Stop right there

This is the problem: we may have. I put an underline and an italics there, because here’s where I’m getting to my main point.

We can’t know what result our decisions had on our child’s future

That’s right, we can’t know. Perhaps, without the therapy, our child would have lost a kidney, been on dialysis for the rest of his life, or even died. Perhaps our child would have been just fine.

But perhaps, just perhaps, the antibiotic therapy actually caused other issues that have come up in the meantime.

This is when we need to depend on our belief that rational decision-making is always the best approach

Sure, I could spend days, weeks, months, and years in regret. I could feel like I have to do something to “fix” the result of making our decision.

But the fact is, we made the decision armed with all the knowledge we had at the time. Certainly, some scientists were already studying the microbiome and had suspicions about its connection with various human maladies. But that doesn’t change one fact.

We made the right choice with the information we had on hand at that time

If you haven’t read my previous piece, please go read it so that you can understand the context. Do I suspect that the antibiotic therapy may have contributed to some issues that we faced later? Yes.

Am I tempted day in and day out to regret my choice?

Of course.

Do I regret doing what was seen as medically necessary for my child?

Absolutely not.

I made the best decision I could make at the time with the information I had on hand.

It’s time to move on now, and we’re moving on. Our child is a healthy, wonderful teen. Our family is secure in the knowledge that we always try to make the best decisions we can, and we try not to beat ourselves up over what we might perceive as past mistakes based on our current knowledge.

Parenting is a messy business, and we are all just doing the best we can with the tools we have available to us.

Posted in Culture, Health, Parenting.


Parenting in the age of fear porn

Faced with clickbait articles about all the harm we can do to our children, it’s hard to know how to make decisions. Parents are facing very real distress at the onslaught of competing voices. I am not immune, of course, but I have made a choice.

I advocate rational decision-making based on using the information we have, then moving forward with our lives without regret.

Here’s why:

Rational decision-making is a process of watching accumulating data and making the best choices given the data we have.

There’s a great temptation to parents to try to figure out what to do based on our fears of the future. Will we regret making this choice?

But there’s no reason to regret your past choices if they were made based on the best data you had at the time. Rational decision-making allows you to let your future self off the hook.

Fear journalism is not there to inform us or help us in our decision-making.

Fear-based articles are not there to inform us. They are there to titillate us. People get off on reading scary stories about what other people “did to” their kids.

I remember what it was like when states started enacting seatbelt laws: I kept running into stories about how “my kid/mother/friend” was “thrown clear” in an accident and “would have died” if s/he’d been in a seatbelt.

Of course, the data on seatbelts is absolutely, unequivocally clear: they save lives. For every person who might have been “saved” by not being in a seatbelt, millions really are saved.

Make the right choice for now and don’t regret it later if more data proves that choice wrong.

It’s very common for parents now to agonize over choices they have to make for their children. Many of these choices are medical, and involve a new vaccine, therapy, or treatment. The best way forward in all of these cases is to check out the reasons for the treatment, what the current understanding is, and go forward with the treatment if there is no clear reason not to. In the future, accumulated data might suggest that the risk of that particular treatment outweighs the benefits in certain cases. Or maybe a commonly accepted treatment will be replaced by something better. But that won’t change the rightness or wrongness of an individual choice at this time.

The right choice is to do what current understanding says is the best choice, and not regret it later.

Decisions made based on fears of what might happen aren’t rational and don’t have good outcomes in general.

Just because sometimes they turn out to be “right” doesn’t make them rational. Most of the time decisions made out of fear have worse outcomes than rational decisions. But there’s very little money in publishing stories about bad things that didn’t happen: “My Kid Didn’t End Up in a Wheelchair Because of Polio” isn’t very enticing clickbait.

People seek out titillation.

We are living in an age of fear porn.

Parents are the most vulnerable victims of fear-based journalism. We are making choices for other humans that could change their entire lives.

One area where fear-based journalism has had a great effect is vaccines. We read and hear these fear stories daily. “My child got a vaccine and this horrible thing happened.”

But the data on vaccines is abundant and the scientific community continues to agree: The overall effect of vaccines on our population is a clear positive. If you like to get your journalism with a dose of humor and foul language, check out this piece by John Oliver. If you like a point-by-point refutation, this is a good one from Australia. If you want links to the data, start at the CDC.

With vaccines, the only rational decision to make is to go with the data we have on hand and move forward. Fear of what might happen leads us to make irrational decisions. Understanding the data lets us make the right choice for now and move on.

How we live and parent is our choice.

You don’t have to go with the crowd and live a life based on clickbait-generated fear. You get to make the decision about how to live your life.

The rational way to get through this life of too many competing voices is to make the best decision based on the information we have on hand and move on. But this is hard to do when we are facing the onslaught of fear journalism.

Reject fear porn.

Avoid clickbait, let your future self off the hook, and stick with the science.

Also, listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson.

More on this topic:

Posted in Culture, Health, Parenting.

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In praise of a job well done

I’ve always had a problem with the idea that there are “important” and “less important” jobs in human society. I, for one, consider the guy who comes and gets my garbage regularly very important.

But whether or not some jobs are seen as more important by our society as others, I think everyone should join me today in appreciation of a job well done.

Any job—I’m not ranking them by importance today.

Here’s where I started on this train of thought. Last week we hired my mother’s housekeeper to come clean our house. We are four people, one of whom would be considered “neat,” one tidy enough but not terribly particular, and two—the ones under eighteen—well, let’s just say that they are as “neat” as Donald Trump is “consistent.”

Over the years, I have tried it all: training, cajoling, bribing, threatening, modeling, yodeling.

OK, I didn’t try yodeling. Perhaps I should.

But our house pretty much never attains what I, the neat person, would call clean. I work and work and cajole, bribe, and sometimes do the job for them, but somehow, the house always feels like it’s got an impenetrable layer of scum on its surface.

Enter the wizard of housekeeping, the woman who can walk through a dirty room like the pied piper and leave it neat and incredibly, awesomely clean.

I just did my weekly deep cleaning of the kitchen and it was clean. Not that I didn’t have spills on the counter, scraps on the floor, and scum in the microwave to get rid of. But that ever-growing layer of scum was simply gone. 

How does she do it? She tells me that she knew from a young age that this was something she was good at, and that doing the job gives her satisfaction.

Back to that garbage. By the way, my older child once had a classmate whose mom was a sanitation worker. She told me she loved her job. She loved getting up early and getting things done, being home for her kids after school, and not bringing her work home with her. She felt appreciated and important.

Our own garbage man seems cut from the same cloth. He’s a man who likes a job well done. After we’d been living in the house for years, they changed the payment system and somehow our bill went amiss for a few months. Our guy came to the door and told me that he figured there was a problem, because he knew we’d always paid before. He was supposed to cut off our service, but he didn’t think that was right.

It was a job well done; I called and figured out the bookkeeping mess, and he took our garbage.

So far I’ve only mentioned jobs that are what most people would put in the “less important” category, but my point is that we can all appreciate a job well done. I love it when my kids have a great community college prof who knows what her job is and does it so well our kids are tricked into thinking the class is “easy.” I love it when I have a problem with a local store and the salesperson figures out how to fix it so that we both end up happy. I love that our retired neighbor runs our private road association like a job that he’s getting regular performance reviews for.

I totally loved it when I got The Guy Who Knows Things at AT&T and in 30 seconds he figured out the problem with our account that had bedeviled three other employees before him (who had all blamed the problem on me and my phone, thankyouverymuch).

I asked him if I could get his direct line, and he apologized that they didn’t have direct lines. Next time I call, I guess I just have to ask for That Nice Guy in Texas Who Knows Things.

As a parent, I hope I’m instilling in my children a love of a Job Well Done. We talk about how a problem got solved by someone who worked hard, or a product was made well by someone who cared, or a politician actually went out and did the thing they promised to do.

I am hoping that one day this will translate into my children actually cleaning their toilets without being cajoled, harassed, and threatened, though I’m not holding my breath.

A Job Well Done seems to be a rare thing in our society. I think we need to celebrate it. It doesn’t matter how prestigious your job is. Housekeeper? Clean that floor better than anyone else. Salesperson? Know your products and stand by them. CEO? Take the share of responsibility your paycheck implies that you have.

No matter what you do, finish up the day knowing that you did your best.

Note: Ah, how time flies. I found this draft that I wrote last year… and though I still love the sentiment, I can happily report that I no longer have two under-18s (one has graduated and is off to college!) and my 14-year-old has suddenly gained pride of place and is cleaning his own room. Crazy how much changes and you don’t even notice…

Posted in Culture, Parenting.


Beauty and the modern human

Recently a Facebook “friend” (a young woman I was in a class with for a few months) posted that she had been deemed “ugly” by an app that purports to be able to divine whether someone is “beautiful” using math.

Apparently, her “interocular distance” was too wide, and some other such nonsense.

Well, yes, it’s nonsense—but I’m sure that mathematically, it’s true. This young woman is striking by anyone’s measure. She doesn’t look like anyone else. Her eyes are noticeably far apart. But does that make her ugly?

I was lucky to have been assigned John Berger’s Ways of Seeing as college reading. No doubt it’s terribly dated now, but at the time, it was mind-bending. Using the nineteenth-century oil painting tradition, he showed how “beauty” in many instances is actually more about power and ownership.

Real beauty isn’t perfectly symmetrical faces. It’s not female bodies molded to fit an ideal invented on a computer screen. It’s not the perfection of a Photoshopped landscape that removes all irregularity and dullness.

The Botticelli head cut out by John Berger in the opening sequence of “Ways of Seeing”

When I think about things I find beautiful, I know that it’s the imperfection that sets them off. Why would I find beauty in a face so generically perfect I wouldn’t be able pick her out on the street? I read somewhere that all the most successful actors have something “wrong” with their faces.

But this is the joke our modern culture is playing on us: On the one hand, we prefer imperfection. We find people attractive who have all sorts of imperfections. Sometimes the imperfection itself is what attracts people.

On the other hand, we are pressured to change our own selves to make ourselves more and more perfect, less and less interesting. Women especially, but men more often now, fuss about their faces, their butts, their ankles, their hair. In a world where we actually can change almost any aspect of our looks, people are starting to think that they should.

The problem is, perfection isn’t attractive in the literal sense of the word: humans are not attracted to perfect specimens. I read recently about an experiment that underscores this: viewer were shown two photos of the same subject. One photo was a selfie, approved by the subject; the other was an informal photo taken by a researcher. The viewers overwhelmingly choose the non-selfies as “more attractive.”

This is from a 17 Magazine article about taking the perfect selfie. What a perfect illustration of how repulsive we can make ourselves look when we are trying to please other people!

In other words, what we do to ourselves in the name of social acceptance may actually have the opposite effect. When thong underwear were all the rage, for example, a male of my acquaintance confessed to me that he found panty lines very erotic.

I was very heartened by the responses that came from my “friend’s” real friends: They were appalled, amused, outraged. One of her friends posted something like, “the male half of this species begs to differ.”

I feel like each one of us needs to consider that everyone we meet is subject to this sort of media onslaught. We need to appreciate each other’s imperfect beauties, and do it out loud. We need to appreciate the individual ways in which people make this world more beautiful, whether it’s by what they wear or what they do.

Our culture is hell-bent on making us all feel like ugly, repulsive creatures who need to submit ourselves to daily torture to pay for our sins.

I beg to differ.

 

Posted in Culture, Psychology, Sexual Politics.

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Goal-setting parent guide—free download

Note: I have written a Parent Guide to accompany my new book, Homeschool with Confidence, which is a goal-setting guide for homeschooled teens. Although it is meant to introduce the concepts in my book, it might be of interest to parents in general (school and homeschool). Feel free to download it here if you are interested in reading more.

Dear Parents,

Congratulations on your recent acquisition of a teenager! I promise you will not be disappointed. Your teenager should be expected to display common teen features, including surliness, flashes of brilliance, sudden mood swings, unparalleled sweetness, antisocial tendencies, social neediness, advanced sense of humor, and unfailing attraction to all manner of digital devices.

This guide will help you guide your teenager through my goal-setting curriculum, following a few simple steps:

  1. Do not, under any circumstances, let on to your teenager that you are guiding them
  2. Do, always, give your teenager unconditional support and encouragement
  3. Do not let on to your teenager that you feel invested in the outcome
  4. Do let your teenager know that you see a bright future for them.

Confused? Welcome to being the parent of a teenager.

Sociologists have found that the concept of “teenager” is not common to all cultures and across the span of human history. It may be a unique phenomenon of modern industrialized societies.

However, that doesn’t make your job any easier. You are trying to guide someone who doesn’t want to be guided, mentor someone who may actually believe they are smarter than you, and stay sane in the process.

It’s a tall order.

Why goal-setting?

My new book was inspired by working with my kids and my students.

When my older child was 13, I started to see a difficult near future. Though he’s generally a pretty mild-mannered guy, we were getting a lot of pushback and defiance about things that I didn’t consider important at all. It was wearying. I’m sure at some point I must have said this: “If you must fight with me, can you at least choose something meaningful to fight about?”

I started to read about teen development and realized that goal-setting might be a way to get around some of the communication difficulties we had. I couldn’t find a curriculum that wasn’t full of school and organized sports, so I did the homeschooler thing: We muddled through with what we had and adapted what we could find.

I was amazed at the changes in our relationship, and immediately started to integrate what I’d learned into my parenting and teaching. (I teach in-person classes and also online classes at Athena’s Advanced Academy.)

It’s really quite simple. Goal-setting allows you and your teen to:

  • Get to know each other on a new level, as humans with ideas and desires rather than just parent and child
  • Develop a common understanding of your family’s values and concerns
  • Develop a common understanding of your teen’s values and concerns (which may be different)
  • Create a system of planning that is both focused and flexible
  • Learn a new vocabulary to communicate without value judgments and emotionally loaded expectations

Read on by downloading the full guide from my website.

Related:

Posted in Education, Homeschooling, Parenting, Psychology.


Half-empty nest syndrome

I remember when my kids were little and I would talk to parents of teens. They always seemed so… calm? resigned? detached? Parenting little ones was a full commitment, physically, intellectually, emotionally. But clearly parenting teens was something different.

If you have little ones and you’re reading this, you might think that I seem, well, calm… resigned… detached. It’s true, part of having kids who are leaving the nest, as my older one is in a week (gak!), is a process of letting go. And as a friend pointed out to me the other day, I am really letting go. My son is jetting off to the Middle East to study Arabic and regional history and politics.

Going off to sleepaway camp!

This is not at all like sending him off to sleepaway camp.

But sending our kids out into the world is also the culmination of the biggest commitment we can make in our lives: to bring a person into this world that we will nurture and do our best to raise into a functional adult of the kind that we want to be around. I know some people who have had to let go of their precocious ones early, and some people whose teens morphed into mid-20s adults before they were really “out of the nest.” But eventually, this ending, which is really a beginning, will come about. Our newly adult children will go off to college to study with teachers we will never meet or get a job working for people we don’t know. They will hang out with friends whose parents don’t see us at PTA meetings. They will make decisions without even bothering to text us about them.

Cuz is also going off to college! How they do grow.

And it will be good.

I know that I’m not losing anything, and I also know that the job of parenting is never quite over. But I do know that when he steps onto that jet, even though he’ll be back for a few weeks before college, and then he’ll probably be home for holidays, this is the end of something.

And it’s been great. I will never forget the way the pre-mom me laughed off the phrase “the hardest job I’ve ever had,” which so many parents echo. Before I had children, I simply had no idea what this was all about.

My favorite lil’ guy photo.

But now that I am sending one off into the world, I can tell those of you who are in the thick of it—sometimes wondering whether your sanity, your physical health, or your marriage will survive it—that parenting is truly the hardest job.

And truly the most rewarding. The imperfect, complex, still-developing humans that we send out into the world are the result of our hard work. What they do with their lives is their responsibility, but no matter what ends up happening, we parents can know that we did our best with what we had.

Related: A good word about teenagers

Posted in Parenting.