There really is nothing in the world quite like raising a child. In such a short time, the pressures of keeping up with our peers and being popular become distant memories. Who has time for a drink on the weekend when I’m preparing a baby for the rest of their entire life??
This is a message to all those parents who find their homes just a little too quiet.
Every moment from the very first time we hold our newborn children in our arms slips by faster than the last. One day, you’re figuring out how to install that ridiculously complex car seat harness for their first ride ever in a vehicle. Before you know it, your child is crawling off into all kinds of precarious situations. (I’m looking at you, staircase.) The first steps lead quickly to dancing, and jumping. Soon they run faster than you ever imagined, until one day you look up and your baby isn’t small anymore.
It seems to me that parenting is full of these, “one days”.
One day they will find their voice, and you won’t be their only advocate anymore. Just as quickly as they will look down and discover their tiny little toes, they learn that their feet can take them to all kinds of places. One day they will fashion their own dreams and aspirations for their life, and head out into the world walking their own path for the first time. At this point we make the shift from leading our children in life, to following them and supporting them.
When our children are little they look to us to show them the life they could have. We leave impressions on them throughout their early years that last forever in their minds. When they are older they look to us for encouragement, love and support. They are still our children, after all.
Every parent has a vision for their child. We spend countless hours envisioning the perfect life, the ideal job, the house, the family. We use this image to fuel ourselves through the toughest times in their life. It serves as a light at the end of the tunnel, and a chance to give your child a better life than you had. We all know that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that the only thing that will get us to the end of the race is time and limitless patience. With this in mind, try not to rush your children into their future. They only get to experience their life once, just as you did. Don’t compare your child to your dreams, instead, learn to believe in their dreams for their own life.
Sometimes our children decide to take their path on a different timeline than we imagined. As a teen, I was bullheaded and sure of my self. I could not be held back from moving out on my own. In spite of the detailed plan my parents had for where and when I might move out when I was finished school – I informed them I was going. It was as if it broke my poor mother’s heart. I tried to tell her it would be okay, I knew what I was doing; and I had a plan.
My parents tried to hold me back. They did all they could to get me to reconsider. In the end, my mother felt as if I was leaving HER. I was abandoning her dreams for me, and going out unprepared into the world. The moment I walked out of her door, and into the world, I would be alone. She wouldn’t be able to shelter me from all the stress of life anymore. Taking this path would only slow down my dreams, and she couldn’t understand why I would be so eager to leave.
I know now, that she was right. It would have been easier, and more logical for me to have waited just another year. The problem was that I grew up in a home where I craved independence. I knew the value of work, and earning your way. I wanted to pay my own way through life, and create something for myself. I saw my parents’ example, and wanted to make them proud of me. I had felt like a burden, and I wanted to show them I had what it takes to be successful in this world.
Now that I am a mother, myself – I can see why my parents tried so hard to hold me back. The path I chose wasn’t an easy one. I struggled, I went broke. I learned to budget and got things together. I could have learned all of that at home, but I know that the reality of having it be my responsibility made it more important to me. I realize that my parents wanted to shield me from the hardships I had to endure, and rather than hold me back – they were just trying to hold me under their wings a little longer.
For most parents; the first emotion they experience when their teen wants to leave is hurt. It’s natural to feel as though they are leaving you. For years, you have been responsible for anticipating and addressing all of their needs. You have put their care first, and prioritized their future over your whole life. You take pride in the work you have put in to raise them, and rightly so. A million possibilities race through your mind of all the things that could go wrong. You wish for them to stay more than anything else, so that you know that they will be safe for one more day. It isn’t easy to let go, but your child needs you now more than ever. Don’t turn your back on them for doing exactly what you have prepared them for their entire lives.
Your child only feels ready to leave because you have done your job as a parent.
You’ve spent years preparing them for this very moment. You taught them every trick, every secret. You showed them how an adult provides for the lifestyle they wish to have. More than anything, you have shown them love. If you hadn’t prepared your child for the world in this way, they would never feel ready to leave. Don’t view this as a failure on your part. It is because of you, and your hard efforts that your child believes in themselves enough to even attempt this.
At this moment you are offered a choice. You could fight their wishes, demand that they stay. You could shut down their dreams, and hold them back from taking the first shaky steps into the adult world.
Or, you could do what you did when they took their very first steps. Look on them with pride, that they would try to better themselves this way. Encourage them to try, even if it means they may fall down. Shower them with love, compassion and the belief that your dedication in their lives has given them the stable ground they need to get started in life.
Chances are, in the not so distant future – your child will be back, knocking on your door. They will start to see you for who you are, their number 1 support. They will know that you will be there for them in this life, no matter what. In my experience, it only took a few short months before my mother and I started to develop a relationship we could never have hoped for while we were still under the same roof. I began to look forward to our weekly meet-ups. I learned how much we really had in common after all.
It’s easy to miss the familiar noises of a family home. The patter of tiny feet, the music of laughter. The little, “I love yous”. The years of wishing for one quiet night quickly fade into moments of lost lullabies and stolen sticky kisses. The first night without any one to round up or say goodnight to it feels as if the silence is deafening.
How could I have wanted it to be this quiet?
If you find yourself feeling this way, it’s okay. Just pick up the phone and call your baby, tell them goodnight. Send them a message to tell them you’re thinking of them, and that you are proud. Chances are, they miss you too.