My role as a parent has changed significantly over the 33 years I have had the job. I am no longer on duty hour by hour. Instead I am more of a relief pitcher, called in when my particular skills or experience are needed. But it seems I am always on the bench, warmed up and ready to go.

Some more things I have unlearned (and relearned) as a parent and as a psychotherapist for college students who were making the transition from being a dependent child to a more autonomous young adult:

I am not in control. There are centrifugal forces in the lives of our children that pull them away, and many of those forces are beyond my control. I no longer believe in the verse in Proverbs that if you “train up a child in the way he should go, he will not depart from it.” That may have been conventional wisdom for the small Jewish communities of that time, but it is not so true today. With the prevalence and easy access of drugs, the information available on the internet, the independence provided by a cell phone, and so many more influences that were not even realities a few years ago, parents are outgunned in their influence beyond elementary school.

Parenting is a matter of having faith that life, or God, or karma, or the good will of the universe is at work and that it all does not hinge on my energy and wisdom, though it is up to me to bring as much energy and wisdom to the moment as possible. Without the faith that life will move forward regardless of the disastrous job I may do or that my children may do, I would have given up hope long ago.

This is very much where stillness and mindfulness come into play for me. Without the moments to be still and let the bigger picture form within and around me, I would let the disasters of the moment dictate my response. That truly would be disastrous.

Finally, they are not me. My kids’ lives do not look like mine. Many of their values do not closely align with mine. They are not living the lives I would have chosen for them. But I still have a job. Part of that job is to figure out how much to be involved in their lives and how much to keep my nose out of things. I have started many conversations with, “I know this is none of my business and you can tell me to butt out, and I will, but…” Usually they have the trust in me to answer honestly. For that I am grateful.

One part of my job as parent remains the same: to provide as best I can what they need, not necessarily what they want. However, what they need is so different now than what it used to be, and that is the challenge. It’s easy for me to decide what I want them to need from me. It’s quite another thing to patiently wait, or to help them clarify what they need. More often now the need is in the form of information, perspective, or emotional support. My first impulse is to fix something. Once we can get past my need and clarify what they need, I can do it.

Oh, unlearning is hard.