My friend is telling me she is throwing a Harry Potter birthday party for her eight-year-old son and I am suddenly jealous. I want to experience little people getting super excited about a theme party and plan something creative that will thrill my kid. I am thinking this way because my son is celebrating an 18th birthday.

This birthday has hit me hard.

An 18th birthday is a milestone from child to adult and it’s just as big of an event for a parent as it is for the teen. My son can now vote, buy a lottery ticket, drink legally in Europe and sign himself out of school. He is legal in a court of justice and can make his own health decisions.

As a mom, I can’t help but feel a little less needed.

I know my son will always come to me for sympathy if he has the flu or for advice if he needs to buy a girl a gift. But this is the point in time when I am supposed to encourage him to do things for himself.

No one warned me about how odd this would feel. The hardest part is the feeling that the years went by fast. Too fast. I still remember the mornings he would crawl into my bed and we would talk about the day ahead. Now, I am competing with his phone for his attention.

At 18, my son definitely keeps secrets from me. It’s what teenagers do. I’ve had to come to terms with the realization he only tells me the things he wants me to know. I also have had to come to terms with asking for hugs rather than waiting for the spontaneous affection a young boy shows his mother.

I know I did my best to get my son to this day. I have tried to show him that I am his passionate advocate, but also human and make mistakes. I tell him often that as his mother I will always have his best interest at heart.

The teen years were tough. With all the pressures coming from so many directions, I worried often about how my son would handle it all. As a mom, I felt the challenge of keeping the line of communication open, even when I got one word answers. But I never stopped trying and I never will.

On his 18th birthday, my gift to my son is to offer my unconditional love, and encourage him to be an adult who will make his own way in the world. I recognize he needs to make his own choices now and my role is to give guidance rather than make them for him.

It’s not easy moving to the back seat, but it’s the seat a mom needs to take on an 18th birthday. Now I can watch the driver and enjoy the ride.

So, 18th Birthday to my son and happy next stage of life to me!