Dear child, can you wait for me? Parenting has a steep learning curve and I feel like I am always one step behind you.

I just need a minute to catch up.

Before you were born, I spent hours studying baby care manuals. I wanted to be an educated and well-prepared mom. You came a few days early and I wasn’t ready. I had to learn to breastfeed you and change a diaper, how to cuddle and coo to get you to sleep. It eventually became second nature–but it took me a minute to catch up.

Just when I really got the technique of swaddling down to a science, you started rolling over, then crawling, then walking. Taking care of an independently moving baby was different than caring for the little burrito baby wrapped tightly in a blanket. Gates were installed and everything sharp in the house was carefully padded. I learned to be vigilant and move fast–but it took me a minute to catch up

The toddler years went by quickly, and in the blink of an eye you turned into a preschooler. I had to learn that preschoolers want to do things for themselves and have to be reasoned with, not just instructed to do things. Millions of “why”s were answered as patiently as possible. Adjustments had to be made–and it took me a minute to catch up.

Just when I got the hang of being a preschool mom, walking you to school, holding hands and being greeted at the end of the day with a running into my arms hug, you morphed into an elementary school kid. You were still glad to see me at school but didn’t show it as enthusiastically. I started sending you off to parties and playdates by yourself. You didn’t need me as much–and it took me a minute to catch up.

The pre-teen years sneaked up on me. Since when did pre-teen start at the age of 10? You perfected the art of the eye roll and spent a lot of time alone in your room. I struggled big time when hugs were no longer tolerated and conversations were a series of one word answers. I learned to give you the space you needed–but it took me a minute to catch up.

As soon as I thought I had gotten ahead of the learning curve and was well-prepared for the dreaded teen years, you morphed once again. But this time, you didn’t change according to the books; contrary to my expectations, you became a loveable and engaged teenager. Hugs were definitely back in vogue and conversations were frequent and deep. Along with these teenage years came expectations of independance. Driving, dating, drinking, I had to learn to let go and trust that I had taught you to do the right things–and it took me a minute to catch up.

Now, you are in college and I’ve had to adjust once again. Communication is less frequent and visits home are few and far between. We share ideas more like peers and any advice is given tentatively. You are ready to graduate in the spring, have a job lined up, and oh yeah, there’s this boy you like . . . 

My dear child, please wait for me–I need a minute to catch up.

Dr. Jennifer Pinto

Jennifer Pinto is an avid reader, writer, psychologist and mom to a daughter(20) and two sons (16 & 14). She has been married to her husband for 21 years. She is currently writing a young adult novel and has a psychology-themed blog called "Off the Couch..." She enjoys drinking coffee at all hours of the day, cooking Indian food and being the team mom for her son's tennis & football teams.