As a parent, there comes a time in your child’s life where they seem to be moving beyond you. It’s a slow roll, but it’s all happening. When they are infants, this concept will seem impossible. You look at your baby and toddler and will not be able to fathom these helpless creatures so much as being able to pour themselves a cup of juice, since your life has been tending to their every singular need.
This shift away from you is slow. You almost won’t even notice.
In the throws of the infant/toddler years, when one of your children reaches 3 years old, you start to day dream about the day when they will pour themselves their own bowl of cereal, take baths without your assistance, get themselves dressed, when you aren’t chasing someone through the house with a sock or wrestling the other child into a shirt; when your every thought is not interrupted by their current (and absolute immediate) need. A day when you aren’t at their beck and call, and you can have a complete and uninterrupted thought. Those will be the days, you think to yourself, longingly.
And then suddenly, they are 11-years-old and 8-years-old. They now bathe themselves (sometimes needing reminders to use soap). They now pour their own bowl of cereal (and leave a crumb trail). They now dress themselves (for better or for worse). You would think that you would be ecstatic. You’ve come a long way, baby. Some of it is as awesome as you thought it would be – however, independence is a slippery slope.
It comes at a price.
It is them shifting – just out of reach.
You look at these big kids, as they get themselves breakfast, splashing juice on the floor and countertop, and miss them, even as they are standing in front of you. Because now, you don’t get to hold them close as you give them a bottle, or snuggle them close as you towel them off after their bath. There are no more question-and-answer sessions as you put on their pants and shirts (Mommy, why do shirts have sleeves? Where do socks come from?).
And it all feels different than you thought it would feel.
They feel far away from you somehow, as they disappear into the bathroom to shower and then the bedroom and come out fully clothed. You find yourself wondering, when did he get taller than me? When did she start needing to shut the door to get dressed?
To add insult to injury, the days of you having them all to yourself are all but gone. You share them with school, and soccer and gymnastics and friends and, and, and… The calls and texts come in from friends and soccer buddies to hang out, go to movies, stay over-nights are persistent. My husband sometimes comes home empty-handed from their soccer practices, because both kids got better offers.
And that leaves my heart aching a bit – feeling once again as though they are slipping through my fingers. That they are moving just out of reach.
Years ago, I thought I would be exhilarated by this kind of freedom. Instead, it leaves me a little sad, a little lonely.
I struggle with this feeling of guilt, wondering why do I float between the past and the present in this nostalgic purgatory? The sentiment is overwhelming some days.
It’s not as if I don’t find this current stage of my kids’ life enjoyable and special in its very own way. I do. They are becoming these amazing people, and I have a front row seat; watching them as they figure themselves out, testing themselves, testing my husband and I, testing my patience (just kidding, I have none left), pushing boundaries and as they navigate this world. It’s really something. I love their candor, their unique perspective, their humor.
I love that we can now all go for a bike ride and ski, as a family, and go out for dinner and to the movies without any fanfare. There is a newfound flexibility in these years that is refreshing.
And even on the days that are hard, filled with strong wills and emotions, where we have cracks and breakdowns, I still think to myself, I really, really like these kids. I tell them truthfully and often that they are my favorite people on this planet.
These kids are going to continue to grow, evolve, and their natural progression is to shift away from us. I understand it; this is the circle of life. Rights of passage. All of that crap. I get it. I know this old mom can’t compete with my son’s soccer buddies who speak his language and share his passion…or my daughters BFF’s, that make her face light up when they are around.
I know that when given the choice, they will choose them over me for the coming years.
The writing is on the wall. I’m bracing myself for my upcoming role as a washed-up-has-been. It’s a huge downgrade from indispensable. But for their sake, I will play my role gracefully (to their faces) and only show my true feelings when my husband gives me that look, the one that tells me that he knows how hard it all is on this sentimental mom’s heart.
I know if I do my job right, if I let them go just enough – not too close, not too far, but just out of reach, where they can figure this world out for themselves, become who they are to become, chase dreams, succeed, fail, experience the trial-and-errors of life on their terms, blazing their own trail, they will know that as they continue moving forward, they can do so safely knowing that their mom is always behind them, (just over their shoulder), never out of reach…
Not even for a moment.