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 realizing 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?
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. That makes everything just a little less bittersweet, don’t you think?