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The Parenting Milestone No One Tells You About

Nobody told me how beautiful it is to watch your teenager fall in love.

04/08/2017 2:42 PM AEST | Updated 04/08/2017 2:42 PM AEST
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"Yesterday my son and his girlfriend celebrated their one-year anniversary and, let's just say I felt a little emotional."

I'm not sure if people actually write parenting books aimed at mums and dads of teenagers. I haven't seen many of them but I suspect this is because by the time your kids are teenagers you realise you don't need other people to tell you how to parent your own kids.

Of course, there are books that talk about the horror of teens, and thousands of online articles warning you about the dreadfulness of teenage brains, but obviously they are very different from the baby manuals that tell you how to 'feed, grow and rest' your child.

Maybe it's this, or maybe it's just that I stopped reading articles that made me feel I was raising other people's children years ago. Either way, I was totally unprepared for a milestone my son recently reached.

Nobody told me how beautiful it is to watch your teenager fall in love.

Yesterday my son and his girlfriend celebrated their one-year anniversary and, let's just say I felt a little emotional. Given that I sometimes feel emotional when I have to tear open the milk carton, this was no surprise, but the feelings associated with this emotion were nothing like I was expecting.

I feel proud of the person who he is, I feel lucky that he has grown into a person who can receive love and express love.

I didn't feel sad knowing that he is old enough to have a 'proper' relationship, I don't feel like I am losing him in any way at all, and I certainly don't feel like I have to 'share' him with his girlfriend as many people have suggested. (People make odd suggestions to us helicopter-type parents).

In fact, I have always felt the notion of sharing a person quite absurd. Love is not a slice of bread, it's not limited and finite, it's more like butter than it is like bread -- it can be spread.

But, I know from my own relationship with my mother-in-law, it can be hard seeing your offspring dedicating their time and their love to someone else. I get that 'lion mum' thing, but I can think of nothing I want more for my son than that he live a life surrounded by people who love him in different ways.

I want him to know my love, but I also want him to know the love of his other family members, of his friends and of other people around him. I want him to know the love that arises from someone who isn't 'forced' to love him because they are born into his family. I want him to know the love he deserves because of the person he is.

I had expected that, one day, when my son grew up and moved away, I would feel great sadness, and I realise that this is true -- I will feel sadness at the passing of time, but I won't feel sadness about the fact that he has grown up and fallen in love with a beautiful girl.

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I feel proud of the person who he is, I feel lucky that he has grown into a person who can receive love and express love. I feel excited for his future, I feel like my husband and I have done a great job in demonstrating a respectful and loving relationship and that fills me with enormous gratitude for my own relationship.

I feel happy for him as his future unfolds before him and he finds the right people to help him navigate it. And, I feel really emotional that he is surrounded by so much love.

No book, no article or blog post told me how wonderful it would be to see my son fall in love. They didn't tell me that teenagers sometimes make excellent decisions, they didn't let on that they work through so many issues with their friends and that they really do care about more than just themselves.

They didn't tell me how they grow up, they become young adults and one day you look up and they're celebrating an anniversary with a partner so perfect for them you'd think you had chosen them yourself.

It's a good thing I never relied on the books then, because experiencing this firsthand is just another one of the joys of parenthood I've been honoured to learn through my son.

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