It’s Sunday morning at 11am. In years past, I would have already been up for 5+ hours, diapers changed and re-changed, nap times navigated, breakfast and snacks served, activities mediated and rest-time non-existent. I remember wishing occasionally for just one hour – just one – to do something without interruption. Our kids were little, highly needing of our time and attention, and not yet old enough to entertain themselves without our frequent participation, or the maturity to play without the watchful eyes of a parent. They couldn’t yet wipe their own bums, open the fridge for a snack, or play without supervision. Our level of needed-ness was unrelentingly high.
I don’t want to go back to those years – but I sometimes get overwhelmed by how quickly time is flying by and how little-by-little, Ethan and Audra are growing up. It strikes me as the biggest cosmic joke that as moms, we seem to be programmed to want to keep our babies young and close-at-hand, while sometimes wanting to keel over in sheer mental and physical exhaustion.
I’m not the kind of mom who tries to keep our kids small. As a matter of fact, I feel like the job of a mom is one of constantly learning to let go – bit by bit, easing the reins, and letting our kids experience more and more of life. We do our best to let them expand their horizons, test their abilities and prove themselves responsible enough and deserving of new privileges as they get older. I love that they are old enough for us to do things with them that we want to do – like take long hikes, snorkel in deep water, watch exciting movies, explore new places, or have deep conversations. As a matter of fact, I’d choose the company of our two kids over that of many of the adults I’ve met. Our kids are awesome – and lots of fun to be with. With Audra just-turned-9 and Ethan being nearly-11, they are quick simply great company.
But today I find myself on the gazebo in our lush backyard, quietly sipping a coffee, willing myself to appreciate the time I have to myself. Somehow we’ve gone from being so constantly in demand that it was exhausting – to a weekend like this. Ethan has been having the time of his life at a friend’s cottage, while Audra has been at another friend’s house for an extended sleep over for the past 28 hours. And the simple truth is that I miss our kids. Right now, my heart is a little achy as I wait for my family to reconvene around me, filling me up with stories of their great weekend adventures.
Years ago, the idea of letting my kids go hours away for days on end would have been inconceivable. But with the passage of time, those boundaries slowly expand, pushing ever-so-slowly outwards. Maybe I’ll be called crazy for expressing this (that was Dean’s general comment when I expressed my feelings of missing our kids) – but I miss my kids!
Don’t get me wrong – I was happy to let them go. I was happy for them for the great and fun times they would have with their friends. We didn’t consider saying no to their requests for even a moment, and I am looking forward to hearing them joyfully recount what an amazing weekend they have had.
Maybe it’s just getting me at an exceptionally vulnerable moment, but every once in a while I get hit by the overwhelming realization of how quickly time flies. Our kids are growing up so fast. Sometimes it seems like those crazy-busy times of being a parent will never ease, and then I find myself in a quiet house while they play outside with friends, go to the park without me, or walk to school on their own.
Maybe this is amplified by coming on the heels of this being the first week that I wasn’t needed to pick them up after school. For years, they’d ask why some moms picked up their kids every day – while I only could do it two days a week – like they were somehow being slighted. And then this past Wednesday, Audra asked if she could walk home from school with a friend, which Ethan has been doing for a while. “Yesss….” I answered hesitatingly. I had no trepidations about her walking home in our small town – but my mind was processing this unexpected ‘first’- that of not being needed to pick our kids up from school. I wasn’t quite ready for that. (I actually considered going to the school – ‘just for the walk’ – but realized that I would have been doing it for ME – because I wasn’t ready for this step, even though they were.) Instead, I watched the clock as I worked on my computer – noticing when my normal departure-time came and went. And I stayed where I was. Simultaneously feeling how convenient this was as I completed my work – while also feeling a little sad, like something precious was slipping away from me.
Maybe I’m being overly emotional, but my mommy-heart quietly grieves all of the signs of how I am a little less needed in my babies’ lives.
Even with this, there is another part of me that is laughing at myself: “Are you CRAZY, lady?! After all these years of constant work, juggling life as a working mom, mediating being a business owner with caring for our home-life, lacking sleep, and sometimes needing time for ME so badly that I was in near break-down mode?! Don’t you remember all those times?! Don’t you deserve a little break?! Can’t you appreciate this gift of time??”
So yes, I am enjoying my down-time, achy heart included. I had a fantastic date-night with Dean last night: we hit up a local street festival, followed by an amazing steak dinner on a sunny patio, a walk along the Barrie waterfront – and a sleep-in today. I looked at Dean as we drove home, and asked him what he thought our life would be like if we didn’t have kids (this is after he lovingly laughed at my comments about missing them). His truthful answer was that we’d probably travel more, live a more luxurious lifestyle, and have more money – but that ‘he likes having kids’ – and not just any kids: OUR kids. And I couldn’t agree more.
Yes, I may have to re-read this myself on some of those days that I want to pull my hair out with parenting-frustration. I don’t subscribe to the idea that the ‘best years are behind us’. Despite the truth in how being a mom makes me grieve as my kids leave behind more and more of their dependency on us, I can also welcome the new more-mature relationships that are forming in our family. I can laugh at myself for crying over these little things, all while understanding how deeply the roots of these feelings go.
The wiser part of me knows that our kids don’t need me any less than when they were little. They just need me differently. They need us to listen without judgment, to extend our trust a little deeper, and to demonstrate our confidence in them by letting them go just a little farther afield with each passing year. They need to know more than ever that they are loved and accepted by us, even when they falter. They need to know that they can always talk to us – even about the hard things – and that our arms are always open for limitless hugs.
As for me, as a mom of two kids quickly approaching the adolescent years, I feel like the hardest part of the ‘job’ – that of letting them go even more (while holding my breath as they stretch their wings) – is going to be a life-long journey. Maybe this weekend was just a reminder of how far into this process we already are.
And maybe my job is to have a little more faith in US – in the job that Dean and I have done so far in raising our kids to be the healthy, happy, self-confident individuals that Ethan and Audra are proving themselves to be. Maybe I need to let go and trust that we have been doing a great job – the most important one in the world, in my opinion.
At the end of the day – regardless of how young or old they may be – they will always be my babies. Our babies. (While dads may process this differently, I have trouble believing that this doesn’t affect them, too…) And we will love them the way that only a parent can. Whole-heartedly. In the moment – and for every moment past and future.