There are many things I find confounding when it comes to parenting, and so many, many different stages and milestones our children go through and accomplish.
Many are we are not ever told of, although if we closely look at what our parenting counterparts speak about, we’ll see that they are ever so common.
Milestones like crawling and walking, public tantrums and fussy eating.
Like starting school and turning eight/into an obnoxious and rude little snot.
Like mastering times tables and traversing school yard politics and friendships.
Like that period of months where every photo you take of them their face is obscured by a strategically placed middle finger. Aimed directly at you.
Like that moment then they no longer argue with you about spending family time together, and instead you you experience a mature, understanding, and cooperative ‘young adult’. One who no longer argues because, well, that’s what you do when you’re a kid and your parents suggest anything.
That moment, the moment when they no longer argue and just go with the flow, is a moment to relish. It is a softening of all the tension, a relief, and there is a sense of accomplishment.
Is this … is this the It they refer to when they tell you ‘it’s all worth it’?
Could it be?
Could it be all that those years of tears, tantrums, refusal to eat what you cook, or notice the love, care and effort you have put into their every day of their lives have had the impact you want them to have, and they now get it.
They have found that appreciation for you that you have longed for for years, and never felt.
Alas, t’is but the calm before a rather unsettling and world-tilting experience.
It is, for want of a better word, a separation of sorts. In what appears to be an overnight change, your offspring commences that ritual of treating home ‘like a hotel’, spending more time out with friends, coming home for a bed, a shower, a meal, or the entire contents of the pantry.
Alternatively, your home may be filled with room-taking-up teens, whom permeate the atmosphere with a range of smells, not all of them appealing. Even the smells that have the potential to be appealing are in quantities so vast as to be repulsive.
These activities mask another milestone, and important stage in the adulting of children.
Whilst the focus is on the not coming home, or the noise, mess, and lack of foodstuffs in the fridge a mere 13 hours after you’ve done the grocery shop, your offspring is moving on.
Separating from you. Although, it’s not often a clean cut. A cutting of the apron strings if you want to get all cliche about it.
Instead, it is more like the separating of an egg; the viscous albumen clinging to the yolk, stubbornly refusing to let go its hold, until the combination of rocking, transference, and gravity overcome it.
Its grip slips, and the white blobs down into the bowl. It’s never truly, completely separate though.
It is the next stage in becoming their own person, where you, for them, have gone beyond embarrassing and into not being needed in quite the same way. Where you once listened and hugged and consoled, they now seek these actions from their friends.
Were you to ask them if they were okay, or if they had a nice time at the thing they went to, you may be awarded a grunt, or an actual full word like ‘good’ in return. Yet they can spend hours upon hours in group messages, Snap Chat streaks, and meme sharing.
You’re no longer even really sure what the thing they went to is; you are no longer needed to complete enrolment forms, sign waivers, and sit on the sidelines and watch (after you’ve spent a year or so being actively involved in the activity yourself).
Your presence and involvement are no longer in any sort of demand, unless, of course, it is to drive – or supervise a learner driver – and hand over a note or seven of monetary significance from time to time.
It can be hard to confront.
One moment you’re signing excursion forms, being forced to sit through dance recitals or basketball games, and then … then you’re not.
Overnight you can provide a literal shoulder to cry on, hugging out hurt and squeezing in love, and then … then you’re not.
Once upon a time, you were their world and knew all the things, and now you are just there, and don’t know anything, don’t understand, don’t get it.
It’s hard not to take it personally, or to feel unappreciated, rejected, unloved and unwanted.
It is little more than a child moving further into that space they will call their own, where they need to do things on their own, and do things that they need to do.
They are not you, and you are not them, and we all need to do what is right for each of us. Our children are no different from any other human, even though we are so enamoured by our own, and have put years of blood, sweat, tears, love, time and effort into them, we think we can keep them the way we want.
We are not them, and they are their own beings.
Even if they don’t really know who they are just yet, and are wearing the fashion of your own youth, and not rocking it anywhere near as much as you did.