Still friends, it's hard to believe Karis and Courtney are starting college next week.

Dear Moms,

For many of you, this week has been the official ending of summer vacation. Your babies walked into a classroom. When they let go of your hand, you relinquished control. The first day of school is not for wimps. You know what this day means. It marks another year gone by, another change of seasons and another opportunity to trust God with your child.

Tomorrow, Vic and I will take Courtney to OBU. We’ll stuff her little Volkswagon with her belongings (as well as our car) and make the drive to Shawnee. I was amused last night when I realized how Vic and I were dealing with her impending move. My love language is quality time, so it just made sense that we curled up on the couch and watched Project Runway. We love critiquing the designs and discussing how the contestants interact and respond to stressful situations. It honestly didn’t matter what we were doing. I just wanted to spend time with her. On the other hand, Vic was no where to be found. Finally, I realized he was in the garage. He was meticulously cleaning Courtney’s car, waxing it, buffing the headlights, etc. He displays love by his acts of service and that’s exactly what he was doing. We were both handling the situation the way we were wired.

This will mark a new season of life for her and for us. Just because we’ve moved one child to college doesn’t mean this will be any easier. We’ve learned over the past three years that parenting young adults is emotionally harder than those sleepless nights when they were infants. We’ve learned to pray harder and realized our role as parents continues to change. In the past year, we’ve dealt with some disappointments and have learned that helping your children learn how to fly includes watching them learn from failures.

I’ve been reading an excellent book by Tim Elmore entitled, “Artificial Maturity.” Elmore has written several books about this generation of students. His insights on parenting are an accurate reflection of our society. I urge you to read both “iY Generation” and this new release. Not only are these books great for parents, but they are excellent for teachers, coaches and youth workers. I like these suggestions Elmore gives on parenting and want to share them with you.

1. Be a gardener, not a groupie. Kids don’t need parents or teachers who are enchanted with them or blind to their imperfections. They need caring adults who will see their primary job as cultivating future leaders. I hate to break it to you, but most of your children will not play in the NBA or be a Broadway star.

2. Be a driver, not a passenger. A passenger is passive and a driver gets you to the destination. Prepare them to work based on character, not reward. In real life, not everyone gets a trophy or makes the team. I’m shocked at the number of school systems who don’t even assign grades. Elmore says, “One of the biggest gifts adults can give is to prepare children to live without them.”

3. Be a chess player, not a checkers player. This one hurts a little because I have never learned how to play chess! But, I get Elmore’s point. You can be a strategic parent when you help them figure out who they are. Each piece in the game of chess has a purpose. As a parent, help your child discover their strengths and their learning style.

There’s no comfort in the growth zone, but there’s no growth in the comfort zone. May all of us moms learn how to live outside our comfort zone.

* Much of this information is from Chapter 5, “The Problem of Atrophy” in Tim Elmore’s new book, “Artificial Maturity”, published by Jossey-Bass, 2012. For more information, check out his website at www.GrowingLeaders.com.