When kids are little, they see their parents in a cosmic haze of love. To a young child, a parent is wondrous, magnificent, the beginning and the end. Mom and dad hung the moon and the stars in the sky. They have healing powers, Mensa-level intelligence, and are superheroes. They can do everything. There are no questions about their abilities, and a child’s love toward his or her parents is whole.
I remember the looks on their faces as my small ones held me in their gaze. As their precious eyes locked onto mine, there was only one thing held within them – complete adoration.
(Disclosure: Sleepless nights, tantrums, defiant declarations of “NO, MOMMY!” and endless whining also totally marked those early years. These things happened, people. Let’s not speak about them, mmkay?)
Parents take care of children with ferocity, assessing needs and fulfilling them with vigor, overdoing it for so long that children expect that beds magically make themselves and that heart-shaped cut sandwiches are found in the wild. We spend so much time easing our kids into a world filled with unicorns and rainbows that we miss the day when their eyes see the truth.
That parents are really just human. And frankly, a little embarrassing.
As children age, the shine of parents fades. Tarnishes, even. Parents become the silver earrings you used to wear everyday that are now stuffed in the back of the jewelry drawer because they turned black with oxidation. Over time, the superbond that parents and children share loses its adherence, as our kids tear away from our hearts with words, actions, and slammed doors.
Is this a little dramatic? I can’t tell. I’m too busy sitting here, weeping over the thought that eventually – and soon – my children are going to leave me. Here are eight warning signs that your kids are now big ones, and that you will soon join me in a sobbing mess on the floor, having lost your shine. And sanity.
1. You are surprised by their abilities. They can tune a guitar. They factor polynomials. They broke up a fight between friends. They can whistle, send an email, edit a video. You don’t know how they learned any of it. This is a strange realization, considering it took you five years to show them how to use the bathroom properly.
2. Food disappears. We have a fire pit. We used to always have Hershey bars on hand. You know, the kind that break apart into six perfect sections, that you need to make s’mores? Since my kids are big, we never have Hershey bars on hand anymore. Ditto for soda, Doritos, and those little bags of snacks that I should stop buying because they seem to vanish into thin air.
3. You lose track of what they are wearing. How fun it was to dress my kids when they were little. Summer dresses and matching sandals for the girl, the sweetest jeans-and-striped shirt ensembles for the boy. I knew where each article of clothing they had was located, and kept in the back of my head specific garments they owned that were appropriate for any weather. Now our conversations about clothing go like this: Didn’t you wear that shirt yesterday? How many days in a row have those pants seen the light? Is that hoodie going to address me as Mom soon? What kind of sandwich does it want for lunch?
4. Gum ceases to exist when it enters your house. I used to store things like gum and mints to be used at my own discretion, dispensing it sparingly to the littles who wanted to chew a piece of gum for ten seconds before they swallowed it like candy. Now - where is that ten-pack of peppermint gum I bought yesterday? What do you mean, you chewed it all?
5. You are now embarrassing. I used to be a rock star. My son even told me so, once in reaction to my proficient parking ability. Today, even innocuous texts like “You are handsome” are met with “Um don’t say that. It’s weird.” Expect eye rolls in response to everything you say.
6. You don’t just not know the last names of their friends, you don’t know their first names, either. Or that they’re friends at all. I used to organize playdates like a publicist throwing an opening party at a Manhattan restaurant. I’d sit with my kids and their friends, making sure their needs were taken care of, being the third player at Trouble and being on hand to dress Polly Pocket. Now, I hardly see my children’s friends, and when I do, it’s brief. Oh, nice to meet you, Candace. It’s always nice to meet one of Sally’s new classmates. Did you just move here? Oh, you’ve always lived here? Well, then. Huh.
7. You don’t know what their teachers think about them. When kids are older there are fewer opportunities to pop in on their classes – secret readers are unwelcome and unnecessary in the seventh grade. Gone are the days when your child takes you by the hand and shows you his books, desk, where he hangs his coat. At parent-teacher conferences, one of my son’s teachers says “He’s a great participator. I can always count on him to get a dialogue going.” The other says “I wish he would contribute to class discussion more.” WHICH IS IT, PEOPLE?
8. You are now sort of stupid. Things have gone from “Mommy, why is the sky blue?” to “Mom. OMG you’re doing it wrong and you don’t understand” in a matter of seconds. Milliseconds.
There are more. So many more. But I can’t think about them just now. Pass the tissues.