Would you please stop growing up?
My knees miss your frequent visits of relaxed collapsing into rest.
My neck misses your earnest small, warm embrace.
My face misses your funny sweet kisses – that felt at the time like I was drowning – but now I long for the casual way that they were bestowed.
My hands miss your tiny hands that nestled into my palm. So small that I could warm tiny fingers with the embrace of my own.
My hips miss the weight of you as you wrap your little legs around me – sometimes too tired at the end of a long day. Other times because of terror at a newly discovered creature!
My shoulders miss the weight of you as you clamber higher ‘to get a better view’
My bed misses your sleepy snuggles in the middle of the night when you could not sleep or just needed your Muma.
My arms miss the weight of you as you swing yourself off them – asking to go higher, higher.
My feet miss the slow slow steps taken as you examine every pebble and rock, every flower and every branch, every tiny creature, and soaring bird as we go out for ‘a quick stroll’.
My ears miss your tiny sounds, your tiny cries, your little babbled words – running on from each other like water through a brook.
My lips miss your tiny toes. Your perfect tiny toes that had us in so much awe – they were probably the most kissed toes since time began. You had us all enthralled.
My hair misses the giggles it induced from you as I tickled your tiny tummy with it.
My chin misses how you would curl up under it just days after you were born. So close that I could inhale your perfect newborn scent.
You look at me now and stand firm.
Arms folded and legs slightly apart.
With a pose like wonder woman.
You say “But I need to grow Muma, I have got things to do!”
(Probably followed by a whispered “You can’t stop me” as you head off.)
Therein lies the problem.
Two have gone before you so I know how fast this all goes by. When I look at you I am both filled with delight and nostalgia.
These memories are like that of sun-soaked summers. Any rainy or hard days long forgotten. Only golden soaked moments glimmering in my mind’s eye.
But – you are strong and you are ready for today’s adventure.
Nobody told us of the complexity of parenting. How you start your mothering life in the minutiae of every breathe and sound. Knowing the source of affection at such a deep level that you can predict their needs before they even know they have them. Doing in-depth NASA level research on every single object that comes within their orbit – is it organic? Is it BPA free? Is it healthy? Is it Soft enough? Is it hard enough? Is it too hard? Is it allergy-proof? Is it warm enough? Is it cool enough? You, my darling, consume our every waking and sleeping hour.
As you should.
The undulation of our lives symbiotic with each other.
Then you grow.
As you should.
And we grow apart.
As we should.
As our children prepare to go to pre-school, school, enter college or go traveling for the first time, we are confronted with the reality of our child, our babies, growing up. Please, don’t think us foolish for this. Please, don’t think of us as suffocating. Give us time and the heart space to adjust.
We are learning.
As are you.
As a parent, we are suddenly faced with letting go of a parental attachment that we have held dearly since birth. Sometimes we have had to fight hard for it. Whether through sickness or difficult relationships. When you were born a new era of our lives was born too. One with you in it.
This notion of “letting go” can create levels of anxiety that we are just not prepared for, with an intensity that we did not expect. This is not my first rodeo, though despite that I am knocked off guard with the intensity that I am feeling these emotions. And the Dads out there? You’ve guessed it. They are feeling it too – even if they can’t quite identify it.
Many parents can report experiencing feelings of mourning a loss.
Let go of any guilt now dear ones, we are enough, have been enough and are learning in this new season.
Give yourself grace.
(And maybe a G&T, give yourself a G&T)
It can seem like it is much easier said than done when the time comes to break, or shift, the parent-child connection. Just know that you are still their ‘security’, their ‘safe place’. So when we take them to their first day of school, or childcare, or even their first day of college put on a brave face. If we cant be brave then how can they? You are their stalwart against a turbulent world.
They need to know that in seasons like this you are unshakeable in your belief of them – which in turn lets them believe in themselves that little bit more.
That, in itself, begins the establishment of a child’s autonomy and independence. And that, dear one, is what we are all showing up for.
Whether it’s the end of breastfeeding and the first day of solid food, the first day of kindi or nursery, going away to college, walking down the aisle to give one away, or waving them off at an airport it can be a most difficult tug-of-war for a parent.
But, we can do hard things!
Change is in our DNA.
You were literally born for this.
Upon our knees, their feet will rest as they tell of their latest adventures.
Around our necks, their arms will fly as they greet us after being away from us.
Our faces will receive kisses of thanks, of welcome, of appreciation, of farewell – until next time.
Our hands will be held when our children feel a little lost and need to feel small and secure again. Or in wild abandon, as we dance through the night together.
Our hips will hold grandchildren. Or they won’t. But they will often sway to an internal, remembered rhythm when we hear another child cry.
Our shoulders will always carry the weight of your world for you when you come to us for advice and wisdom. Together we will make the burden lighter.
Our beds will always miss your sleepy, tiny snuggles – but that is ok. Memories can be as warm and embracing as a cosy blanket on a cold night.
Our arms are there to catch you if you fall and are there to set you at rights again.
Our feet are there to always walk next to you, in your mind and heart or by your side.
Our ears are always ready to hear about your life and your adventures. The sound of your voice still makes our heart soar.
Our lips still love to kiss your face.
Child and parent dates: Once a month be sure to set a time aside, on the calender, when you both know that you have time to hang out 1:1. Maybe you think you see each other every day and don’t need to do this? If so then you have no idea of the magic of anticipated quality time. Seriously.
You won’t be disappointed. These times are priceless!
You don’t have to do anything fancy. Some ideas could be a bike ride, an evening canoe or walk. Maybe you could get your old photos out and spend the evening eating popcorn and telling stories about your childhood and family.
Write letters: Real ones. Made of paper and placed in an envelope. Don’t wait until you have something amazing to say. Just write. I still have some letters from my beloved grandmother that I treasure to this day. They hold an unquantifiable magic.
Make dinner together: Never mind how hard I try to avoid it – the need for dinner is ever-present. Daily. We have started to take turns to cook together and it has become a no-pressure, relaxed way, to talk about each other’s days and simply share time together. It has the added bonus of taking an arduous task and making it into a fun one.
(This works better for me with school-age children, after they have completed my own homemade 101 on knife skills and food hygiene)
Setting aside time: Set aside time in your busy week to declare a certain time before bed as ‘______ ‘child’s time. We have scheduled from 7pm -8pm for one child, and 8pm- 9pm for the other. They are responsible for how this time is used. It can range from game playing to bedroom tidying – whatever works best. Either one parent or both can join in and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But we have seen a vast improvement in our family life since trying this out. Bonus for us is that our kids are really quite fun and we are now getting a daily injection of that infectious joy in our lives!