You’re never fully prepared to be a parent.
For the avid planner in the process of creating a life before having children, please read that again. You’re never fully prepared to be a parent.
This wisdom (for lack of a better word) comes to you from a mother who did all the things and did them quite well before turning the page to the chapter of mom, parent, family. There are no regrets and I’d be lying if I said it went exactly as I had planned, but what I realize now is there was so much I truly wasn’t ready for.
Parents of young children, this portion of this piece is for you. Please do yourself a favor now and kiss all the boo boos, stop for all the hugs and listen to all the silly stories. I mean … listen. Absolutely stop what you are doing, put down your phone and be a sponge for your child.
I was recently on a phone call with an acquaintance concerning some professional work she needed help with. As we spoke she asked how old my children were, “twelve and fifteen” I shared.
Her reply took me aback as she sighed a bit of relief for me to have children of an older age and went on to share her exhaustion of parenting a two- and four-year-old. In truth, I envied her and quickly found myself stopping myself before rolling onto my soap box of ‘you have no idea.’
Rather than do that, I simply stated how I missed the “goldfish cracker days” and to be sure and take it all in. She of course assured me she was, no different than I would have said to someone when my two were young.
Then last weekend I was caught a bit off guard once again through the eyes of my phone, aka my camera. Both of my children had a pretty killer weekend by way of accomplishments, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance in the role of mom.
Looking back at the photos, however, following the events I recognized they were doing what they had been groomed to do since a young age – finding independence. No longer do I need to run alongside my daughter when she toes the line of a local race. She now has her own running friends and …. well ... she’s good.
So good in fact that last weekend as I was taxi-ing her brother and his team to one location I shot her a quick text (in between stops) to offer her an ‘out’ of the race we always “must” do. Not only was she all in, but she kindly inquired if it would be okay if she ran this on her own. Recognizing her desire for independence I not only said yes, I left my own running shoes at home and took a pass at crossing the finish line. My role instead, spectating mom.
My eyes tear up a bit as I type that. My daughter and I have run this particular race pretty consistently since she was five. Watching her take off from the start line with her fellow run mate, no longer with parents at their sides was not only beautiful it was eye opening.
Now standing just a few hairs shorter than I, her thin frame and long legs took me aback. She’s becoming a young woman and I’m becoming a spectator.
It’s a transition I came to begin to accept in late December. It was, like most moments like these, an unexpected moment. My son had come home and shared he needed money for a class because the teacher was buying donuts for those interested during finals. Recognizing opportunity, I gave my son some money and asked him to tell the teacher the class donuts were on me.
My reasoning, simple. The days of Christmas parties, Thanksgiving feasts, jog-a-thons and Harvest Festivals are now behind me. I’m no longer taxed by the handouts which get lost in backpacks asking for help or donations; I miss that.
The funny thing of course is that I had no idea this time would come. Yes of course, my daughter’s final day at our elementary school was a tough one. Recognizing the place we had called home for so many years was now a closed chapter was indeed emotional.
But who knew I would miss being room mom and Christmas parties?
In fairness, I never took for granted the blessing of being able to be “that” mom, but if being totally honest by the time she hit sixth grade, I was tired. I wish I knew then what I know now.
I wish I knew then that I would miss the faces of her peers looking up, yes up at me and beaming with joy and excitement. I wish I knew then that I would miss walking them to class, their hands in mine with a quick hug before heading into class. I wish that I knew that spectator days are a whole lot different and that’s a good thing.
Well, at least in this moment that’s what I’m telling myself.
I have a partner who is great at reminding me this is our job, preparing them for the world. Fifteen is not far from 18 and in six short weeks I’ll be a spectator at the DMV with a young man taking a permit test. Deep breath.
These glasses do seem to fit a bit differently and while I know they’re the ones I need for this next chapter, it’s taking a bit of time to adjust to the view I see through them. Oh sure, please don’t get confused, I not only get but know I am still their mom. They still need me, sometimes more so now, as much as when they were wee ones, it just looks a lot different.
Someone once told me that as children get older their things get smaller and their troubles get bigger. True wisdom.
So as I adjust my seat and clean my glasses, I can’t help but glance back a bit and grin. Oh how fun were those days of innocence and goldfish crackers. Here’s to the days of wing expansion and sleepless nights. Time to buckle the seat belt, the passenger seat is calling.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.