When our oldest son was a newborn, I felt a rush of terror and awe as I held him in my arms in the early hours of the morning. “In a single instant, I was taken over by the vast potential wrapped up this small little person,” I told my husband the next day when I tried to express it to him. I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of cultivating that potential — of feeding this human being’s body, mind, and spirit for the foreseeable future.
Now that same son is reaching adulthood, I’m filled with anxiety and awe as he prepares to enter the world. I didn’t anticipate to spend so much of my parenting years alternately delighting in amazement. Periods of amazing joy mingle with moments of absolute misery in my recollections of motherhood thus far. The most extreme highs and the most extreme lows.
Kids Growing up is both a blessing and a curse.
Even when things are going well, I believe this is true. My eldest has his own set of issues, but we’ve managed to sidestep many of the common teen problems that many parents discuss. Overall, parenting a teen has been a lot of fun so far.
However, it is difficult to watch your children grow up. Enough is the empathy you feel while your children struggle to figure out their lives and learn difficult lessons in the process. However, the notion of whether you’ve done enough, taught enough, supported enough, or pushed hard enough adds another layer to it. The natural separation as they become more independent, the conflict you feel between relief and sadness that they don’t need you as much, the unexpected realization that this process is more difficult on this side than it was on the other side — all of these things combine to create a unique brand of heartache.
At the same time, seeing your child blossom is so lovely that it takes your breath away. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of witnessing your years of dedication to your child begin to bear fruit. You sigh a little, knowing that you didn’t entirely botch this up when the abilities and character attributes you sought to foster shine through with blazing clarity.
Your heart nearly overflows with excitement and thankfulness as you see your child make new discoveries about themselves and the world, as you practically watch them grow into an adult before your eyes.
But the truth is that a bursting heart feels eerily similar to one that is breaking. Both the delight and the sadness strike you harder than you think. You’d think that as your children grow and develop, you’d get used to dealing with such emotional turmoil, but it never gets easier. Nothing is more rewarding than watching your child walk toward a bright future, and nothing is more frustrating than watching them walk away from you.
I’ve occasionally felt an unusual want to be enraged with my children for maturing, as if they’re doing it on purpose and could stop it if they wanted to. It doesn’t make logic, but then again, neither do a lot of things in parenting. At other times, I’ve wished I could hurry up the entire process, skipping ahead to whatever vexing age or stage my children were in.
Other times, I’ve wished to stop time, to freeze the perfection of a toothy giggle or a warm morning hug for all time. Of course, these are fruitless feelings, but such is parenthood. We have no control over so many things, which is both exhilarating and terrible.
Now we’re preparing to assist our oldest child in setting sail. I’m urgently trying to cling on to time, but it’s already slipping away from me. And, of course, I want him to leave — it’s been the plan all along.
I want him to mature, but I don’t want him to.
I want him to be self-sufficient and succeed, yet I don’t want to let go of him.
I want to sit back and watch him start his life, but I also don’t want to be useless on the side, unsure if he’s ready
Or maybe I just feel helpless, unsure if I’m truly ready. I’m overcome with anxiety and awe as I gaze out over the vastness of the ocean she’ll be traversing. I perceive beauty and mystery in its seas, as well as storms and shipwrecks, unexplored waters, and buried wealth. I’m confident that our boy will face challenges that we could never have predicted, for better or bad. All we can do now is hope we’ve adequately prepared him for whatever comes his way, trust him to navigate carefully, and pray for calm seas.
.Children growing. It is both the best and the worst thing in the world. When your children were ready to leave the nest, what helped you?