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Thursday, March 1, 2012

“No mommy... I do it by self.” Parenting is Letting Go

Hausrotschwanz Brutpflege 2006-05-24 211

Even before they were born, I knew that there would be things out there that would hurt them, it’s an inevitable part of human existence, but like any parent I still hoped that it was possible to just... you know... protect them from...  

Everything.

Eighteen years in it hasn't gotten any any easier. From birth onward, parenting is a process of letting go.  Give them roots and give them wings, that’s what we were supposed to do, right?

Yeah,  it sucks.Our children have to grow up and we have to let them. They have their own lives to live. The growing up is the easy part... it's the letting them that gets rough.

Even now as my one and only adult child explores her new grown-up world, I am having a very hard time with the letting go part. I am a mother. I want to protect her now, as much as I did the first time I held her. And she just wants to fly.


As one phase of childhood makes way for the next, both parent and child are forced to adjust. From their first skinned knee to their first broken heart, those hurts will come, and most people will survive those hardships relatively intact. Trying to protect them does no good whatsoever, but would we really be parents if we didn’t try?

I constantly question my parenting, well... I constantly question everything but.. I have more help in some ares than most.

I'm not just raising the three children I brought into this world, I am raising my step-daughter Jade full time as well. We keep having to rehash the same old argument about an adults right to happiness versus their responsibility to keep the children involved in their lives safe, but we don't seem to be getting anywhere with the adults. As a result we have a little girl who has seen and experienced far too much for her age. If trying to keep the other kids from growing up too fast is important to us, trying to keep her age appropriate is crucial.She's not having any of it.

With children ranging in age from 12 to 18, we are in the home stretch now. This is that phase that my young parenting self referred to as “the easy part.”

The naive little fool.

While I certainly do have more parental freedom these days, the kids have new freedoms as well... and it is all new and scary for everyone. I can leave the house a lot faster now than I could in the

A few of my old friends from high school are just starting their families. Their Facebook streams are filled with ultrasound images and proud first moments. I love seeing their children grow up, hearing about their joys and triumphs. I love watching the parents try to memorize each moment of their babies lives as if they can freeze it. They can't. Believe me, we have all tried...

We tried to pay attention, to hold on, to save every second of it too. Cooing, rolling over, sitting up. We watched their eyes light up when they learned something new too. Our heart swelled with pride but at the same time our heart broke just a little too. Each step towards adulthood is another step away from us. Away from the safety of our arms and into the world.

Then last week the daughter of one of my oldest friends announced that she got married. For a moment I was once again convinced that she skipped a few birthdays. The little girl who used to draw pictures of angels for me is a wife now. She will be a good wife, but damn if it wasn't supposed to be another twenty years or so before the possibility of growing up even crossed her mind.

Some are just taking their first steps, some are heading off to college, and some are getting married, and all we can do is watch them grow and let them go.We all say the same thing though: "It just happened so fast..."

I’m not ready to boot mine out yet, but I didn’t have to. Two months after Brooke turned eighteen she came home and said, “My friends and I found a house, and I’m moving out.” Our natural instincts are kicking in. We are getting on each others' nerves... she’s already beginning to hate me for meddling, so I guess it really is all on schedule.


I worry that I forgot to teach her something crucial. My late night checklist of “Things That Could Go Wrong” is in overdrive right now. I don’t get a retake here, what’s done is done. How did that experiment work after all?

In the spirit of honesty though, I must now admit that my daughter is technically only a block and a half away. She still comes over a few times a day. She raids our fridge, uses our washing machine, and hangs out to talk. She just sleeps somewhere else now. Just like that. She is still a momma’s girl; we are still close, but she is becoming what she was meant to be all along. An adult.

Jade, is the youngest and at the same time the oldest. She is headed for adulthood at a dead run and where we had to push my kids towards adulthood, with her we are having a hard time putting on the brakes. She's ready for perfume and makeup and curling irons.We want her back into Spongebob instead of Heartthrob.


Even my baby Mystery is slipping through my fingers. She will turn 13 this year. Officially a teenager. Ouch. Every time I look at her I see the signs of a little girl slipping away and that strange woman sneaking in and taking her place. Her hero isn't Scarlett O'Hara anymore, it's Elphaba Thropp. She doesn't want to be a vet anymore either, now she wants to be an attorney because they still help others but they make better money.

Justin's voice on the phone is not his voice anymore. He’s not a man yet, but... he is. I feel so far away from him and his life. From all of their lives. I am going from being the mom who knew all of their friends and their friends parents to not knowing where they are or what they are doing. Justin is still going to school with his Dad and I miss him. I still can't watch Toy Story without crying, but that's okay... we always have Star Wars.

That shadow above his lip isn't just a shadow anymore. He is taller than me now, and the distance between the tops of our heads keeps growing every time I see him. I knew there would be a day when he would look down upon me, but I didn't really think it would happen, not really. The other day on the phone he lectured me about his big sister. He informed me that she was growing up, and I might not like all of the decisions she is making right now but I couldn't protect her from everything.

He also reminded me that I did a good job, I gave her roots and I gave her wings. I did my job, she made it... she's an adult now.

My oldest moved out...Breathe momma, breathe...

I tell myself that she will flop and flail here and there and I will want to rescue her but she'll come to me when she needs me. If she really needs my help I will be here but now is the time to trust her. To trust all of them.

I have worked so hard to teach them how to make good decisions for a reason. I never wanted them to make the decisions that were right for me, or for their father, or even their future partner, I wanted them to make the decisions that would take them where ever they were meant to be.

I know, deep down they will all be fine. The toddler years just keep coming around again in new forms.

“No mommy... I do it by self.”

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