Nothing fills us with quite as much pride mixed with sorrow as watching our kids grow up and become more independent. I really think the word “bittersweet” was created just for parents. Read on and tell me if you can relate!
There’s Nothing More Bittersweet Than Watching Our Kids Grow Up & Become Independent
A little while back, we talked about how important it is to treasure kids when they’re little because they don’t stay that way for long. That sentiment really struck home the other day. My daughter is 5 and she is starting to be more independent. My 9-year-old now wants to do everything with friends.
In other words, both of my kids need me less and less, and I don’t know whether to cry or beam with pride. That’s the thing about parenting, though, isn’t it? As Barbara Kingsolver once said about parenting, “It’s the one job where the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.”
It’s our job to make sure our children can survive on their own one day, so we encourage their independence. We’re proud of every accomplishment they make, whether it’s tying their own shoes or making their own car payment. Our eyes fill with tears of joy for these extraordinary little beings that we’ve created and shaped.
However, mixed in with those tears of joy are more than a few tears of sadness, of nostalgia and melancholy. Our proud smile falters- just a little and only for a moment-as it hits us in the heart like a ton of bricks: each step they take towards independence is yet another step they’re taking away from us.
Kind of makes you want to take Dorothy Parker’s advice when she said, “The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.” 😀
Our kids need a chance to prove they can fly on their own
I think the bittersweet feeling of watching our kids grow up is especially challenging when they’re going through their “you can’t hug me in public” phase. One moment, they’re holding our hands and skipping along next to us down the aisle. The next, they’re downright shocked by any implication that we’re even thinking about making physical contact with them in front of other people.
“My son is 15,” a friend said when we were talking about this. “He went through this whole phase where he would get embarrassed if I even talked to him in public! Then, one day when I dropped him off at a friend’s house, he hugged me goodbye in front of everyone. I was shocked! Overjoyed, of course, but completely shocked. Just like that, I was ‘cool’ again!”
As I listened to her story- and that of other parents- I started to think about something. Our kids need a chance to spread their wings and prove to themselves that they can fly without our help. So, they push us away. Once they know that they really can survive away from the nest, they start flying back to us. Before we know it, they’re all grown up and flying beside us.
Okay, enough with the bird metaphor. What I’m trying to say is this: at some point, our kids go from actually needing us to proving that they don’t need us to realize that it’s okay to want us even if they can do it all on their own.
Does that make sense or are you thinking I should have stuck with the bird metaphor, now?
Spending time with grown children is like visiting the most precious parts of our lives
I saw a quote the other day that said, “Spending time with your grown children is like visiting the most beautiful and precious part of your life.” Plus, we not only get to revisit those days, though, but we get to make all of these great new memories that we’ll cherish forever.
At least, that’s how I imagine it will be. My kids are still a few years off from becoming “grown children,” but I can already see how that quote rings so true. Every time my almost-teen son asks for my help with something, I get these happy little flashes to when he was little and still needed me for everything. The older he gets, the more nostalgic those moments make me feel.
No matter how old they get, they will always be our babies
My friend with the teenager shared another story that I think illustrates this point. One day, her son was struggling to tie a pair of shoes with super short laces while balancing his phone under his arm and trying to fend off the family dog, who was excited about going outside with him.
“I asked if he wanted help, and he looked at me like I had two heads for suggesting that a high school sophomore let his mommy tie his shoes,” she said. “Finally, after five minutes of this, he gave in. He quietly whispered, ‘But I’m not a baby, okay?’ as he let me tie his shoes. ‘You may not be a baby, but you’ll always be my baby,’ I whispered back.”
And that’s the thing, the big takeaway, the balm that soothes our nostalgic souls. Throughout the years, our kids will go through so many phases. From clingy to standoffish, from “do it for me” to “I’ll do it myself.” One day, they’ll become our best friends, our partners in crime, our confidants, and maybe even our caregivers.
No matter, what, though, they’ll always (always, always, always) be our babies. It’s so true. No matter how grown up and how independent they will eventually be, our children will always be our children. We will always feel the need to protect them and guide them in the right direction.
A mother never stops caring, it is just in our nature to always look after our kids. And those kids no matter how old they are will always need “mom”. That makes everything just a little less bittersweet, don’t you think?
Happiness is realizing your kids have grown into good people
I’ll leave you with one last quote, “Happiness is when you realize your children have turned out to be good people.” The only way that we can come to that realization, though, is to let our kids grow up, no matter how bittersweet that may be.
This particularly hits home with me. My daughter n I have lived together as roomies since her second semester of college. She is 35 and a VERY capable woman. But it’s amazing for me to have watched the transformation over the years this close up.
She is still my daughter as well as a sister, best friend, confidante and partner in crime rolled into one.
Now we have another partner in crime. My 5 year old granddaughter is part of the mix. She too is becoming more independent, but it’s been incredible!! Especially with the quarantine. Other people have not seen their grandchildren for MONTHS. But mine is right here n life is soooo good.
Once I started to read this I bawled my face off. Jan 14/16, my son was taken away from me. I did everything I could to keep him but he went on his last journey. To see your child pass away is one thing I pray no parent has to go through. I have days I don’t want to get out of bed because I know it’s another day with out him. I have two others and two granddaughters, I do my best I know it can be better to be there for them and I will even if I have to walk there. Love your babies
I read your comment and cried for you and your son. My son just received the news from his doctors that was devastating for him and his family. I am having a hard time accepting that one day I will not be able to hug him or tell him how much I love him. You are right, hug your babies and tell them often how much you love them.