My oldest child just graduated from high school. As he donned his cap and gown and accepted his diploma, the realization hit me like a brick. He’s really growing up—and I’m not ready.

Parenthood is tricky. When our kids are babies, we are acutely aware that their lives depend on us. In every sense, we are responsible for their survival; we feed them, clothe them and remind them not to play in the street.

As our children grow, we teach them important life lessons, proudly taking in all their accomplishments and feeling empathy when they struggle or fall short of their own expectations and, perhaps, ours.

What we often fail to realize is that our children’s victories are not ours, and their failures are not ours either; our children are their own people from the day they are born. As parents, we can guide them, but ultimately the path our kids take comes from their own decisions and hard work.

At some point in the teen years, we are supposed to magically know when and how to release some control over our kids’ lives. We let them drive cars, stay out past dark and date. And yet, parents like me forget to also do one key thing—we forget to recognize that all of this means our children will soon leave the nest. And we don’t prepare ourselves for that day. As a pediatrician, I advise parents on this very topic, but I forgot to listen to my own advice.

I’m now trying to come to terms with this as I reflect on eighteen wonderful years of memories with my son. I am remembering thousands of hours spent with Jack practicing violin, learning his multiplication tables, going to the zoo and celebrating birthdays at Lone Pine Farms with his classmates. I smile at the memory of reading bedtime stories and holding him in my arms when he needed extra hugs. And I’m reminded of the fact that inside that young man, who now towers nine inches above me, is still the boy who will always need his mom. It’s that thought that comforts me and makes the next chapter of our lives not seem so scary.