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On parenting

February 13, 2010

My youngest son is dating. My oldest son is married. My daughter has lived on her own for more than 5 years and I have another son who is graduating from high school this year. Three out of four of my children are now driving, have ATM cards, and a job or two. All of them are taller than I am (and have been for many years). And with the demands of school, friends, sporting events, parties, and girlfriends, the two sons that still occupy our Atlanta home are rarely present. When said children are at home, I can find them behind closed bedroom doors, playing Modern Warfare with strangers met through the television (I’m not even willing to understand all of that), or texting, eating, and talking on the home phone at the same time.

When my first son was born, I was 19. Too young to be caring for a tiny infant, but (lucky for him) I am a quick study. I pored over every parenting book I could get my hands on. Dr. Spock was my savior. But (lucky for me) he was a good baby. At the time I had no idea that he was a good baby. That reality came just after his sister was born. She…my darling daughter…would be the one who challenged me. If someone had to do it, I guess she figured, why not her? And I learned a lot from her.

I had two more sons after my daughter. The sons who now tower over me and tell crude “that’s what she said” jokes, shave, have armpit hair and girlfriends. The days of “Goodnight Moon” and tucking their covers under the mattress at night to keep them from rolling out onto the floor are gone. Now the bedroom doors are tightly closed — more often than I’d like — and on the rare occasion that they join us in the kitchen, we know they’ve come to re-fuel, not to talk about their day. All that text messaging can really drain a teenager, I’m sure.

Each of them have their own lives now, with places to go and people to see. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that they are kind and hard-working, that they have friends and are experiencing life. That they are happy and healthy, and loved.

So. I’m trying desperately to separate myself from them, as much as a mother needs to distance herself from the day-to-day adventures of her grown children. I need to learn to let go just a little — to “go with the flow’ — which is not an easy task for me when it comes to my children. Did I mention that I still tell my 13-year-old not to talk to strangers when he leaves the house every morning? Tall children get kidnapped, too, I warn him as he rolls his eyes.

Even even as I hang onto the threads that I know will bind us forever, I know that I need to let go just a little more. I know that even though I see them falling, I can’t always be there to catch them. And maybe, I shouldn’t (as long as it’s a short fall). It’s the time spent healing, recovering from the “fall”, that makes you stronger.

As I reflect on my more than 25 years of parenting, I think about what has worked and what didn’t work out so well. And I wonder how much of what I’ve done in all these years has molded them, helped them become who they are today. I suspect, in retrospect, that all those years I was simply watching over them, keeping them fed and safe from harm as they grew into their true selves.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate permalink
    February 13, 2010 9:52 pm

    Ok, I originally thought I shouldn’t read your blog early in the morning because I’d start my day teary-eyed. Now I realize this blog has that effect on me any time of the day.

    I’m leaving now for my 4 year old’s birthday party and this has reminded me to savor it. Thank you. And now I’ll go reapply mascara.

  2. February 14, 2010 2:31 pm

    Kate, hope the party was great! My son’s birthday party was last month and when he turned 25 — joined the quarter-century club– something in me just went “HUH?” I was looking at pictures of him (holding a fishbowl-sized margarita) from his party, and suddenly realized the boy whose hair would never lay quite right when he was 10 was a grown-up (married) man. Still my son, but he’d grown into this tall man, with good hair, a job, a wife, and a life that he was building all on his own.

  3. mommyinreallife permalink
    February 15, 2010 12:14 pm

    Oh can I understand this one. My oldest is going to be 19, she graduated last year. Second is (hopefully) graduating this year, he has a serious girlfriend. His first. My middle child is turning 14 in a couple of months and just shot up past me since, I swear, Christmas! But I also have two in elementary school. So I’m experiencing it all. My oldest three remind me to enjoy, treasure and try to fully experience every minute of this fleeting time with my youngest two. I’m now more in the moment, trying to soak up every memory I can. I was so busy as a young mom trying to “do it all”. Screw doing it all, it’s totally overrated. I hardly remember their baby and childhoods. But I’m a better mom for having gone through that too.

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