And just like that, I’m no longer a parent of little kids.
How did that happen? It was amazingly fast.
Our kids are big ones now. And getting bigger, if our orthodontist is to be believed. He took an x-ray of my son’s hand the other day and said that he has 70% of his growing yet to do.
This is ducking-through-doorways big.
The size I can take. I can even take the growing senses of humor, intelligence, and the fact that we are all finally enjoying the same types of movies. I’m slowly getting used to the kids staying up until MY bedtime.
But being a parent of big kids is harder than I thought it would be.
And not because of the behavior issues. Sure, there are the new attitudes and words and whabang your offspring just zinged you with a truth that you didn’t even see coming. The you don’t know mes that simultaneously wound me and cause the corners of my mouth to turn up a little.
I don’t know you? What DON’T I know?
Turns out it’s kind of a lot. I don't know what they are thinking right now, how they feel about war, or death, or that their best friend has the mouth of a truck driver. If they have that mouth. How many times they say “My mom is clueless” or “She’ll never find out” or “I’m not telling her.” If I’m finally, finally, dumber than everyone else. It’s hard to give up the knowing.
It’s hard to put the old habits away, to say no to things they ask of me not because they can't do it themselves, but because they’re feeling lazy, uninspired, or rebellious. Cleaning rooms used to be a formality; after they cleaned I’d swoop in discreetly and re-order things. I’d discard stained clothing and outgrown shoes. Now I peer into rooms and close the door against the mess, reminding them to sort through their piles of crap. They roll their eyes at me. We know, mom.
Making meals, social plans, decisions to stay at home or join me on errands – these are, for the most part, their choices now. I no longer need to micromanage their work. I try to. They rebuke me. We’ve got it, mom.
The girl – still a tween, still in elementary school – still needs me to do things. To tell me things. To have my hands at her arms’ length. But sometimes I sense that I’m her crutch. This is how it starts. I pull away at these times, not wanting to create a dependency that is spawned by doubt in her own abilities. The perfect storm of femaleness and adolescence is knocking. We dance together, pushing and pulling. It’s uncertain which one of us will lead today.
I reminisce about the olden days, a lifetime ago when feeding schedules and the fear of a ringing phone waking napping kids after a sleepless night ruled my consciousness. When I’d collapse at eight o’clock after a day of taking care of small bodies and needs had ended. I don’t want those days back, but I do wonder exactly when it happened that 8 pm isn’t the end of the day anymore. Sometimes the day ends after I go to bed.
It’s hard for me to change, to not see myself as caretaker, hero, and boo-boo kisser. I can say eat your vegetables and no more cookies but a week ago there was a whole pack of Hershey bars in our pantry and now it’s gone.
I didn’t even get any.
Where is my place in this system? My role is shifting – I didn’t authorize that. What is happening? I’m not ready for these changes. I haven’t organized everything yet. I never got comfortable, never had the opportunity to say I got this. I’m expected to be even more flexible, more on my toes, more go with the flow. At least I know why my ability to plan things has all but vanished.
These kids. They are aging. Changing. They are forcing me into it, too.
Our interweavement is unraveling. I’ve got to keep my eye on their escaping threads, while at the same time keeping a handle on my own. I don’t want to watch them go on without knowing my own ends.
This transition is hard. The worst thing about it is although I saw it coming, I never really knew what it would look like.