I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the experience of parenting, about children and the growing up they do while we are busy parenting them, and about the growing up we do as parents during that time, and all the time really. There is a very rapid growing up that happens for about fifteen years, and then a period of tumultuous refinement, and then the settling into a slower maturation of adulthood with its own various stages and adjustments. But it is those first two pieces that I have been thinking about the most – the speed of the early growing up and the transitions that have to happen from protector to consultant to observer. We get settled into one way of being and then have to switch before we are quite ready to often.
One of the most interesting things about parenting is how much we are changing and growing as we are shepherding our young through their own growth. How we are when we start the process is different than how we are when they are done needing us in that most busy period of growing up. ‘Where did the time go,’ we say and we look at ourselves and wonder too what happened to the us we started out as. And though I think that most of us would not want to change the wonderful person that our child has become, maybe we look back and think that are things that we would have done different now that we know so much more than we did at the beginning. Or maybe we just long to have some of that time back because it did go by so fast and we were so busy that we missed things that we want not to have missed. Or maybe there is sadness because when we look back we see pain and it feels like if only we had a do-over at a certain point something would be better, certainly it would be different and ‘if only’ lingers. Or maybe who knows about any of it because this parenting thing is just so darn hard.
I have been a mom for nearly seventeen years and will say that I am way better at it now than I was when I started. That’s what seventeen years of practice will do for you with anything. I think it would be so much easier if I was starting now, because I know so much more than I did, I get it in ways that I couldn’t before I actually had the experience. Oh life, that’s how it is with everything! Understanding today is what makes us want to hold on to what has been even when it is time to let go, we want that opportunity for one more chance, one more moment because now we see it all clearly. Of course all of that experience does absolutely nothing to help me with a person who is 16 years, 10 months, and 19 days old because I have no experience whatsoever with one of those. If I could just get her to go back to 14, or 10, or 7 I would be awesome. And she would have a moment with the mom I think she deserves, the absolute best of who I could be.
The truth of course is that none of that is realistic, or even desirable. I am a human and I am raising humans and they are learning something important about what that looks like in this process, together. In twelve weeks my daughter will go off to college, she is leaving the nest if you will. It feels good to let go, it is time, the world itself might just be big enough to contain everything that she is. I hope I did enough right when I was supposed to, or at least that I didn’t do so much wrong that it becomes more than a remembered annoyance. That is probably the most that any of us can hope for – certainly we did the best we could at the time.
The funny ting of course is that her little brother, younger by three years, will still be here at home and if my theory is correct it should mean that I have a three-year head start on understanding and wisdom. That’s not how it works. We are each of us totally unique and so much more than just an age or a number. I don’t think I will ever really know what I am doing – I’ll just keep doing it the best I can.