The changing role of Mom
I have two teens at home, at the bookends of high school.
My senior is making strategic decisions about his plans after high school, while my freshman daughter is becoming a young woman who’s focused on her sudden, active social life — and her outfits.
Their growing older makes me cognizant of what’s to come in my parenting journey. I can’t help but question, am I ready for this change?
Parenthood often holds us hostage to the stage our kids are in at each precise moment.
We feel beholden to give all of our energy, and our time, to it. The entwining of our kids’ activities and social connections creates a web that sucks up our attention.
We can forget to look around and take in where we are as adults on our journey.
I may be alone in the fact that I take lots of inventory. I like to contemplate and gauge the deeper part of where my teens are at in the midst of the scrappy art of day-to-day living.
I suppose it’s my way of checking in on them, on me, and hoping I’m doing this parenting gig some sort of justice.
With two teenagers both in high school, I no longer just have one toe in the pool checking the temperature. When they were toddlers, they were sitting in the shallows, splashing, and I was there with them.
As they’ve grown, they crave not only the excitement of deeper and deeper waters, but they’re also swimming by themselves. And they don’t necessarily want me in the water with them.
Some of my recent introspection has been tied to the newness of the home we moved into a couple months ago. I’ve done the moving thing a few times now — between different states and within them. It helps tidy oneself up, of course, because it’s impossible not to think about the belongings, treasures and keepsakes we stockpile.
We look back on the story of our lives when we remember items of sentimentality as we pack and unpack boxes.
One such box is a collection of my daughters’ baby and toddler clothes. I’ve saved the special ones that remind me of those days of holding and chasing. Holding these items causes me to pause to remember just how precious and innocent and pure she was in my arms.
Her tiny, cotton outfits, with buttons and snaps, also remind me I’m no longer in the cyclone of constantly making and doing. I’ve moved from getting the kids ready, to reminding them to get ready, to watching them ready themselves.
At 14, my daughter comes down the stairs in a T-shirt and torn jeans. She’s grown into a young woman now. Her demeanor can carry the lightness of youth and the heaviness of new social pressures — all in one go.
I want to be the person in her life that she knows sees her with the same preciousness and purity of earlier days. That she can be authentically her, and that — as life brings on more difficulties and challenges, which is part of growing up — I love and believe in her.
My senior boy has also provided some moments of pause. It’s funny: I can see the energetic toddler like he’s right next to me, just as closely as I can see his handsome grown-up smile in his recent senior picture gallery.
He doesn’t need me in the minute-to-minute way he did as a young child. He makes his cup of coffee and a fresh breakfast sandwich for himself every morning, and struts out the door without me telling him when.
I think as parents we could get overwhelmed with not knowing where we fit once our kids are grown. We can get saddened by how our child’s need for us changes.
But really has it? I may not be dressing them. I may not make all their meals anymore. But we gave those earlier daily provisions as a foundation for — and message of — love.
And now, though they do much for themselves on their own, I can just tell them I love them. Tell them I believe in them. Tell them they’re precious. Be here to listen.
Doing has transitioned to being there for them. I think, perhaps this is the gift of parenthood hugging back.
Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior with her husband, and daughter and son, ages 14 and 17. Send comments, questions and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.