Aside from being a parent myself, I’m old enough to have known many parents with kids already out of the house, teenage kids, and relatively young or newborns.

Being one to do a lot of research, I read quite a bit about parenting and child development – especially when I was new to it.

Through all of that advice, there’s one thing I never heard or read anywhere, but I wish I had:

Your kids don’t leave the house at 18. They leave the house at 13.

That’s a five years difference.

If you’re at all like me, you have a long list of qualities, experiences, attributes, life lessons, and cultural things you want to make sure you share with your kid before they leave the home.

My timeline to do that was 18 years. I figured as long as they were living under my roof, I’d have some time. But as my kids got to their early teenage years, and as I watched other kids around me get to that age, I realized there’s an age at which your kids friends become more important to them than you.

And as it should be. They’re growing more independent and starting to separate themselves – especially from you. When that happens, you’ll find spending any time with you, when there’s friends they could see, becomes a gift to be treasured.

It happened seemingly overnight, too. Suddenly, watching a movie, going for a drive, going hiking, or just hanging out was not cool anymore. They just started saying “no.” Not because of any dislike for me so much as wanting to pursue their own things.

If you’ve just had children, and you think you’ve got 18 good years of experiences with them, think again, and change your plans.

The timeline is shorter than you think.