Once a parent, always a parent. However, as we work through this parenting role with our children, we have to keep redefining it.
I got together with a friend of mine this past week whose daughter had her high school graduation ceremony and supper a week prior. I was asking her how everything went. Of course, we went through the usual chatter when you talk about a child graduating. It was a beautiful ceremony, great supper, yada yada.
Then she let me know that she found it somewhat difficult. She wanted to enjoy each and every moment, but also wanted to make sure she contributed in creating the perfect day for her daughter. At the same time, her daughter was celebrating in a way that was proving she was becoming the independent young lady she was being raised to be, so didn’t necessarily notice all of the efforts and fine details of the celebration that her mom took the time to create for her. The daughter became occupied with her friends in the celebration of the big day!
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Reflections on Our Conversation
This all got me reflecting on my own parenting role and the parenting role in general. Those of you that know me likely aren’t surprised by this, haha!
I believe this is how most parents feel as we watch our kids develop and move onto a new stage in life. I could definitely relate in the sense that my oldest graduated from high school a couple of years ago and has recently graduated from college. Each step is a transition and requires us as parents to redefine our role for the benefit of our children.
Below are examples of how I’ve had to redefine my parenting role as the mother of my children as they grow:
We mothers are the main provider for our babies. We nurse them and hold them near and dear as we nurture them and rock them to sleep. We as parents at this stage are everything for our children. Without us, diapers would not get changed, food and shelter needs wouldn’t be met. We provide all basic necessities and attempt to provide a stimulating environment that will enhance our child’s development.
We remain the main source of entertainment, especially for our first child. We spend much of this time teaching, guiding and modeling. We hold our children’s hands as they take their first steps. We teach our children to use the toilet and get excited when they move past that diaper stage. We celebrate as we hear our babies say their first words.
We take the time to teach through play. We teach our children how to share, how to ride a bike and how to climb safely on play structures. We have tea parties and dress up times. We read an increasing number of books with them. We start registering our children in outside activities and frequently cheer them on. We encourage them to get up each time they fall and ensure to them that everything is going to be okay. We encourage risk-taking as they learn new skills. We constantly get called upon and make frequent attempts to explain why something is.
We remain highly regarded role models for our children who look up to us. We continue to register our children in outside activities and support them by driving them and watching them, cheering them on. We sit with our children through homework and encourage them through the learning process as much as we can.
At some point, our children start to distance themselves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they request to do things independently without us parents by their side. Trick or treating is done with friends instead of us parents, getting to school becomes much more independent, the list goes on and on. We still drive them to activities and cheer them on. We continue to support them and advocate for them.
We teach them how to cook and do laundry. We watch as their independence increases. At times, we celebrate this. Other times, we feel saddened by it. Our babies are growing up! Many will get part-time jobs. We support them through this.
High School Graduate
We celebrate with our children and are happy, yet scared. Have we done enough? Are our children really ready for this world? Are they independent enough? Will they be okay as we continue to watch them grow and become increasingly independent? What hard lessons will they learn along the way? How can we continue to support them and hold them close?
I have had the stepping stone of vacationing without my oldest, which I still find to be a very difficult thing to do. I’ve had him watch our house and feed our pets as we go away with the other kids for a weekend and he has had to work instead of join us. He has also gone on a few vacations to other countries without us. It just doesn’t feel right, but I fully acknowledge these are necessary steps as he fully transitions into adulthood!
There are so many more stepping stones that many are fortunate to get through with their children, such as watching them grow in their careers, fall in love, and raise children of their own. I will hold those moments near and dear as they come for me. Each milestone is truly a blessing that I cannot take for granted!
It’s hard to continuously redefine our parenting role, eventually releasing our children into this world around us. We celebrate, but try to cling onto our children being our babies as much as we can. We shed a few tears. We secretly crave them needing to rely on us, but know in our hearts that them needing us less and less means that we did a good job in raising them. And anytime they do call upon us? We cherish that call!
A recommended read for parents looking to help their children develop through each stage while developing themselves at the same time is Growing Up Again, Parenting Ourselves Parenting Our Children by Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson. A great book for becoming more self-aware as a parent present in the parenting role is Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell.
I would love to know your experiences as your children become increasingly independent. I would also love to know if there are any books or films you would recommend that have helped you along the way. Please share in the comments below.