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A little time
On childhood, going away to college, and the time parents have to get the job done right
It is the season for proud (and often emotional) parents to share "Move-in day at college" pictures of their offspring. And though some of the messages are overwrought and most repeat familiar themes about the fleeting nature of time, they do offer what can be a useful moment of perspective.
■ Consider that, by the time a child turns 9 years old, their parents have already covered half the ground they are allotted by law and society to turn that growing child into an adult. That's a weighty thing to consider. A 9-year-old is nowhere near being ready for adulthood, and yet it's halftime for the process.
■ Most parents stand a fairly good chance of living to know their children as adults for at least as long as they knew them as children, though nothing is ever guaranteed. That alone ought to be enough to incentivize conscientious, intentional parenting. It isn't always enough in practice, but it should be.
■ But parents have to concentrate on developing young people with the kinds of virtues that keep civilization from collapsing, too. And it's a challenge that has always been with us: Maimonides wrote nearly a thousand years ago "Man's governance of himself consists in making his soul acquire the virtuous moral habits and cease to have the vicious moral habits, if any have been formed." Where would those habits be formed, if not in the context of one's upbringing?
■ Parenting advice columns and other resources often are found spilling over with ways to enhance children's competitive standing among their peers or their fleeting happiness in the moment. But aside from some heavy-handed words on moral instruction that can be found in certain pockets, parents aren't often given the action-worthy steps they need to plan those bigger lessons, and that's a shame. The process is over much quicker than we think.