My youngest child is graduating from High School in a few months. My 25 years of parenting are coming to an end.

From the moment of conception, children spend their entire lives working to become independent. First, to become independent of their mother’s body, then their mother’s breast. Then they leave the lap and hip. They let go of their parent’s hand, they go to school. And then they leave home. It’s what we want––for our children to successfully launch.

Indigenous cultures had lengthy, specific, community rituals that supported a child in their move to adulthood. Western civilization does not. Our children develop ideas of what it’s like to be an adult from their parents, yes, but also from their peers and from commercial media. There is a lot of poisonous modeling, and no clear marker of the shift to adulthood. Girls have the bonus of menstruation and childbirth as markers of womanhood, but supportive rituals around them are few to none. There is basically no marker for boys, unless they go to war. Maybe that’s why teenaged boys drive fast and party hard, to prove themselves against risk.

Without the step stone of ritual, it’s a wonder that anyone ever really grows up. Many of us spend our adult lives figuring out how to transform negative childhood beliefs and locating a purpose in life. We’re constantly launching ourselves.

I’m launching myself into the next phase of life. I’m not sure what it is, but it does not involve packing lunches, doing extra laundry, or driving to basketball tournaments. It’s bitter-sweet. I’m leaving behind my life as a parent, and entering into a vast expanse of self direction.