Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thoughts on parenting as my son turns 20 February 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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FOR 15 YEARS, I’ve been parenting teens.

Today that ends as my youngest, my son, turns 20.

Tomorrow his sister, my eldest, turns 28.

Like most parents, I wonder where the years have gone, how, snap, just like that, I’ve become an empty nester with three adult children. My other daughter is 21 months younger than her older sister.

At times, if I’m honest, I wished time would move faster, that the tantrums of a two-year-old, the sometime moodiness of a teen, would vanish.

I look back now and understand that this is all part of growing and of the parenting process. None of us—parents nor child—are perfect. But we stick together. We love and live and forgive and embrace and move forward.


At age five, the son dressed as an elephant for Halloween. Today he attends Tufts University. The university mascot is Jumbo the elephant.

At age five, the son dressed as an elephant for Halloween. Today he attends Tufts University. The university mascot is Jumbo the elephant.

The son lives in Boston now, where he is studying for a computer science degree at Tufts University. I’m proud of the independent young man he’s become, focused on his future, working hard to get the most he can from his education.

He’s always been a self-starter when it comes to learning. He didn’t wait for teachers to teach him. As a grader schooler, my boy would check out books from the library to learn what he wasn’t learning in class. Later, when he got a laptop, he would also research online. Up until he entered college, he basically had taught himself everything he knows about computers and programming. At age 18, he formed his own company, Apocrypha, LLC.

My big baby boy, born 20 years ago today.

My big baby boy, born 20 years ago today.

Watching him grow has been interesting. He started life weighing 10 pounds, 12 ounces, by far the biggest baby in the hospital nursery. By 10 months, my boy was walking. He was into everything. Everything. Today he towers well over six feet and, I think, is still stretching. Or so it seems whenever he returns back to Minnesota, which isn’t often enough for me.

That’s the thing about parenting. When your baby is born, you have no idea that the sleepless nights, the two-year-old tantrums, the turbulent teens will not be the most difficult part of parenting. It is the letting go that proves especially challenging, the realization that this child you’ve loved and cherished and held close will leave you. I just didn’t expect my son to journey 1,300 miles away.

But it is at it’s supposed to be.

At times, I feel like I could have done better as a parent. Don’t we all.

The letting go began in the fall of 1999. By spring, the son had graduated from kindergarten.

The letting go began in the fall of 1999. By spring, the son had graduated from kindergarten.

Yet, there comes a realization and acceptance that you’ve done the best you can and you must let go. Not that you ever stop caring or loving or supporting or praying for or worrying about…

Today the days of parenting teens are behind me. And I’m good with that.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


19 Responses to “Thoughts on parenting as my son turns 20”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    And peace comes with the acceptance of what “is” today………sometimes more of a struggle than other times. The role of parenting is to instill/teach the “foundation” of the structure that the off-spring can spend their life building upon.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    It is all good, isn’t it, when you see your children growing up into amazing and wonderful young adults who have much to offer to the world? I know that it is difficult to be far away from your children but it is all part of the letting go part of being a parent and it really is what we want for them, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing the adorable pictures with us. Happy Birthday to Caleb!!

  3. I remember leaving for the Air Force in the summer of 1974 and my sister crying as I left on the bus, my daughter is now going on 26. Just wow, you know?

  4. Love the elephant costume! You are so right that the most difficult part of parenting is the letting go. My daughter will turn 20 in October. I’m am looking forward to what she becomes as a young woman.

  5. Jackie Says:

    Adult children….who would have ever thought they would really get there? Parenting adult children can be a new kind of challenge without the control… That’s why we hope the foundation we built for them will carry them through their new-found independence. Happy Birthday to your “baby” boy, what a wonderful young man he has become!
    P.S. I beat you in the big baby contest. Brice was 10 lb 15 oz, yowzers!!!

  6. hotlyspiced Says:

    You had such a big baby! My third child was also my biggest. Mine was 10lb 1oz so not as big as your boy but definitely I felt it! How tall did your boy turn out to be? I’ve been told mine will be 6ft 5” and he’s certainly tall for his age. If he does reach that height he’ll be a lot bigger than his siblings. I know what you mean about how time marches a long way ahead of us. I’m at a loss to understand where all the years went but I can definitely agree with you that it’s bette to move forward than go back in time xx

    • That’s a good question about my son’s height. I need to ask him sometime. But probably 6’3″ or thereabouts. The think is, he never was tall for his age until he reached his latter years of high school. I remember a physician friend of ours telling us, though, that he would be a big boy based on the size of his hands as a baby. They were big.

  7. Happy Birthday – Welcome to Your 20’s – Here’s to Many Adventures!!!

  8. Lovely. I can’t imagine reaching that point in my son’s life! By the way, seems that he and Katie share a birthday! She’s Feb. 9 as well. 🙂

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