Hello my peeps. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve checked in with everyone. So…how ya doing? I hope your doing well and feeling good. I thought we could chat for a few minutes today if that’s okay with you.
I’ve had a lot to ponder over the last few weeks. Remember my post about life’s only constant being change? Yeah? Awesome. I have another installment of change coming and I don’t mind telling you this change is another doozy.
Some of you may know, some won’t, but I’ve been a mom for 25 years. I cannot believe I just wrote that, but yes, my oldest is 25. Shh, let’s not talk about how old that makes me. If I keep my body in the dark about our age maybe it’ll keep going and do all the things it needs to. LOL! Age is only a number, right?
Becoming a mom has been THE most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Being a mom has been THE most exhausting thing I have ever done. In all the ups and through all the downs, watching my sons grow has given me many laughs, lots of tears, and some of the greatest joys I could ever imagine. I cannot imagine what my life would’ve been without them, the challenges, the joys, the ups the downs and I wouldn’t want to imagine life without them. Buuut… here comes more change.
My youngest son graduated from high school last month. I look at him and I am amazed with who he was, who he is and who he will be and he hasn’t even taken but a tiny step toward who he will be. I am still amazed. He makes me laugh, is my greatest cheerleader, gives the best hugs and is a gamer to the core. He’s had the same best friend since 3rd grade and is as loyal as the day is long. He makes me immensely proud and that’s probably a gross understatement.
The winds of change are beginning to blow again. With the youngest graduating, the ending of this child raising era comes with some drastic changes. First, child support will stop. Let me clarify, I will no longer be PAYING child support. When I received the paperwork from the courts about the youngest being emancipated and child support payments coming to an end, I cried. Literally, I sobbed. You may be asking why or maybe not, either way, I’m going to tell you, hahaha.
When the magistrate awarded custody to the boys’ dad, I knew I would pay support. They are my kids and I would take care of them. Then the child support started and I remember thinking, “I will be paying this for the rest of my life“. I knew that wasn’t the case but at the time, in the moment, I couldn’t see the end. Maybe it was because of the emotional toll of losing custody, maybe it was not wanting to look too far down the road, either way, I knew for the rest of my life I would suffer financially because a huge portion of my income would be going to their dad.
Then the notice came that those payments were coming to an end and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It isn’t about the money. I would give my last dollar to and for my children. That ton of bricks is about both of my children now being adults. My babies are no longer babies but grown ass men. My role to and for them will change. I mean, it’s been changing their entire lives but WOW, what does parenting adults look like and what am I going to do now?
I find it interesting that when you become a new parent everyone has advice about how to care for your baby. I’m sure you’ve heard those tips. Things like how to get through rough spots with breastfeeding or which formula may work best. How to help your little get on a sleep schedule. What diapers are best. Then, we hear about the terrible two’s and what may work or not. Talk turns to how to find the best preschool or what toys are educational. Where to find the best pediatrician and on and on. The advice is endless.
The hardest part of parenting isn’t the terrible two’s or the lack of sleep or the endless paraphernalia you’ll carry around for years. It isn’t the endless fights about eating veggies or if they can go out in public wearing a tutu and cowboy boots or a striped shirt with plaid shorts because they wanted to dress themselves. It isn’t the battle to get them to stay in bed. The hardest part of parenting isn’t whether they are falling behind developmentally or not getting homework assignments turned in. NO!! THE hardest part of parenting, no one talks about or has advice about, is when your child grabs the car keys, walks out the door, and yells, I’ll be back later. THE hardest part of parenting is letting them go, letting them venture out on their, letting them figure out who they are, where they want to go, and how THEY are going to get there. THE hardest part of parenting is watching them make mistakes knowing you cannot pick them up, brush them off, kiss it and make it better. THE hardest part of parenting is when they leave your home to find their own.
We raise them to be independent, to fly with the things we’ve taught them. Boy, when that day comes and they actually spread their wings and leave the nest ready to adult as best they can, your parent heart swells with pride and breaks just a little all at the same time. I used to say after each of my boys were born that another piece of my heart was walking around outside of my body. Well, that has never been more true than it is in this moment with my adult children walking around. Now, parts of my heart are not only walking around outside of my body, it’s taking adventures as an adult which aren’t my adventures but theirs!
I’ve been practicing parenting adults with my oldest. He’s been on his own for about 2 years now and is doing a bang up job I might add. The dynamic certainly changes. What he needs from me is less. What he wants from me is different and some days it really stinks that I cannot do or be more for him. Softening that blow was the fact I still had my ‘baby’ to parent. You know, homework help, cooking for him, etc.. Having been a full time mom who part time parented, I’ve been practicing empty nesting, but I still had my ‘baby’ who still came for visitation per court order.
Yep, no one tells you, the hardest part of parenting is figuring out how to be the parent of an adult. Maybe some of the hardness is not knowing who we are outside of being mom/dad. We give so much to our children. we lose who we are. Our identity is wrapped up in being a parent, as it should be in my opinion.
As I’ve been thinking about all of this, I’ve realized three things. Sharing with you may be the only advice you hear about THE hardest part of parenting. I hope it helps someone. These 3 things have become sort of my mantra in the moment.
I AM STILL A MOM/DAD: It doesn’t matter how old your children are or where they live. YOU are always going to be their mom or dad. That part of you will never be gone. It has shaped you and grown you and will serve you through this next portion of the journey. Your identity will still contain a portion of that mom or dad-ness. It’s like learning a new skill at one job and then carrying that skill into your new job. Your children made you a mom or dad and that will never change. It will always be part of who you are. Your job now is to carry that into your next job, taking care of you.
PARENTING EVOLVES: You acted and parented one way when your children were infants. Then, as they became toddlers, your parenting and how you acted changed a smidge to adjust to help your toddler learn new things. What you had to do as a parent changed again when your children started school. As they became middle schoolers or high schoolers, your parenting changed again. Parenting adult children is no different. You, along with your children grow and change. Your core parenting (beliefs, styles, etc.) doesn’t change, but, HOW you parent will continue to evolve just as it has since your babes were born.
IT IS OKAY TO FEEL LOST AND NOT KNOW: Lets face it, you’ve spent the better part of your life being a parent to your children. You’ve run the gamut of 2AM feedings, potty training, homework, kissing boo-boos, first loves and broken hearts. You’ve been the taxi driver, the medic, the cheerleader and so much more. It makes perfect sense that as your children grow and move away into their own lives that you will feel a little lost. Like, what the hell just happened? Your focus has not been YOU, it has been your children. It makes complete sense you’re not sure who you are or what you want, how to get there or hell, even where to begin.
I guess where I am is here. What better place to be than in the moment? I have some growing to do. Some figuring out what I look like as a parent of adults. Some discovering to do about who I am without children under foot. We never stop being parents, do we? It’s a life long journey. Having said that, I, like my children, are on a journey to discover who I am, where I want to go, and what I want to be when I grow up.
Now, get out there and be the awesomeness that is YOU!!