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Dawn -- a new beginning and promise of a new day.

The beginning of a new year prompts many people to reflect upon the year past and to resolve to make changes for the upcoming year. In our family, there are several December and January birthdays, which only intensifies the desire to reflect.

This year, my "baby" turned 18. It's the first time in 36 years that I have not had a child. It's an odd feeling.

Someone once told me that parenting is the only job you work yourself out of if you do a good job.

When I took my first two daughters to college, I cried all weekend. We'd seldom been apart. This was the first big separation. But, I was busy with the younger children, so I busied myself with the demands at home and soon adjusted.

Then, over the ensuing years, daughters married and became mothers themselves. Year by year, children grew up. They graduated, went to college or the military and flew the nest.

If I found my identity in being a mother (as I too often have), I would be lost, devastated. But, again and again, I continue to learn that my identity is not in externals, not in relationships or titles or careers, but in being created, designed, and purchased by the God who loves me despite (or in spite of) my flaws.

Several years ago, a young mother posted on social media after the birth of her child that she finally had someone who would always love her. Sadly, even that is not true. Our children go through times of varying moods, selfishness, recalcitrance. They, too, are human and regardless of how close a relationship a mother and child have, there will be times one will hurt the other's feelings. But, if a mother will be secure in her identity, she can better address the needs of her child as he or she grows, matures and goes through the trials of growing up.

When I was a young mother, I thought I had all the answers. I read voraciously every parenting book I could find. I attended seminars and conferences on parenting. I challenged what I saw as errors in my parents' ways of parenting. And I was quick to offer advice.

Now, with my eldest almost 36, I feel less sure, less competent than I did 30 years ago.

I thought it was difficult with four children 4 and younger or with seven children 9 and younger. Diaper bags, car seats, carrying infants and assisting toddlers was exhausting. But, now, I realize there are bigger burdens than carrying a baby physically.

I don't believe a mother ever stops carrying her children, but she does it when they're grown in an entirely different way. Sadly, some parents don't differentiate and still carry their children's burdens when they're adults. But, a wise parent will "carry" their child in prayer, in advice when it's sought, and in loving them unconditionally through their trials.

Over the years, I have made tremendous mistakes and poor choices. So have some of my children. But, each of us has learned through our trials. Honestly, sometimes I'm hesitant to offer parenting advice anymore when I consider how much I've failed. But, then, I consider my blessings and how each of my children and grandchildren are a joy to be around and how eager I was for advice decades ago.

So, I hesitatingly offer this to mothers of grown and nearly grown children: Love them. Counsel them when they ask. Release them. Cry with them. Rejoice with them. Smile at them.

•••

Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. A native of Louisiana, she moved to northwest Arkansas in 1980 to work for the Benton County Daily Record. She has nine children, five sons-in-law, nine grandsons and three granddaughters. She can be reached at abeard@nwaonline.com.

Editorial on 01/08/2020

Print Headline: What's a parent to do when their job is over?

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