Nurture Until They Shine on Their Own
Almost daily, I stop and ask myself the same question: “Is it just me?” I promptly reassure myself and answer, “Of course not, dear. But it doesn’t matter even if so.”
Recently though, I can’t help but question why I don’t feel the same way as seemingly so many others. Picture after picture is captioned “I miss my babies!” or “Time please stop!” or “I wish I could go back!” I see these pictures, and while I love a quick dose of nostalgia, my first response is usually “So how far back are we talking?”
Sure, I have wonderful memories of when my children were babies, but I have no interest in going back there. You want to go back to the endless nights of staring at your newborn daughter for hours on end watching the rise and fall of her chest just to know with certainty that she’s still breathing? No thank you, I actually like to spend my nights sleeping.
Back to the time when my son would cry in spits and spurts for no apparent reason, and nothing I could do seemed to soothe him? Oh, yes, please, sign me up for more of that.
I remember in particular one very long day when my son was about four months old and I just could not get him to settle down. We had enjoyed roughly four hours of an eat, sleep, cry cycle, and I had just about had it. I decided to take him to the pediatric after-hours clinic with my three-year-old in tow. I had a plan.
My mom had recently come for a visit, and she left a crisp hundred-dollar bill on my nightstand. (That’s who she is and what she does.) I was frazzled from the day and not interested in waiting endlessly to see a doctor. I arrived at the clinic with the cash in hand, ready and willing to hand it to whomever was in line ahead of me. I was prepared to give money to a stranger just so I could get this baby to stop crying more quickly.
Do I want to go back to this place and time? Hardly.
I love that my kids are growing up. I love the people they are becoming. I love to see them navigate through life and ask me thoughtful questions. I love that they are developing opinions and tastes that may or may not align with mine.
I love that my son can tell me that the medicine burns, or that he feels like he might throw up. I love that when my daughter does throw up, she can aim perfectly into the toilet. I love that they can easily explain to the doctor what ails them. Karaoke is a lot more fun now, too.
I am genuinely excited for my daughter’s third-grade year. I honestly wasn’t sad when my son started Pre-K. His joy was so infectious. How could I possibly be sad? I see how ready they are for the journey before them and can’t see any other option but going along for the ride. I don’t find it sad to see my kids grow, blossom, and step into their life’s milestones.
That’s just it. Their life. It’s their life, not mine. I guess I can’t hold too tightly to something that’s not mine to begin with. I read a quote recently:
“To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.”
This was a perfectly fine quote and, in many ways, it spoke to me. But so does Elizabeth Taylor, and I’ve never met a diamond I didn’t like:
“I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of them and love them, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”
Don’t get me wrong, the thought of my kids leaving and going to college in Idaho makes me very sad. But I would never discourage their wanderlust. And full disclosure: each night when I kiss them goodnight, I jiggle them gently to hear them breathe. Old habits die hard.
As much as the thought truly sends shivers up my spine, I am their temporary custodian; my job is to prepare them to soar. They are two of the brightest jewels of my life. Brilliant and dazzling, precious and rare. Expensive. Temporarily mine to protect and nurture until they are ready to shine on their own.
This article was previously published on entermothering.com.