As many parents get ready to send their kids off to college, and possibly encounter an empty nest, they tend to bemoan the fact that their life is changing, and that here on in, parenting is over.
This author invites us to think about the change, but not the change in our lives, the change in our outlook, and she encourages parents to embrace the “newish” life they will now have with their children.
Revelation About Parenthood
One day when I was reading all the Facebook posts from parents taking their babies to college, I had a revelation about parenthood.
I’ll get to that in a minute.
Of course these loving tributes tugged at my heart and led me to reflect on the passing of time, and how quickly our babies seem to grow into near adults.
It may not be that time passes so quickly, but rather that our markers – these tiny human miracles at birth – change so dramatically over time that it makes it feel like it happened faster.
If you’re at the almost-college stage (or beyond), you’ve probably looked back with longing to earlier years in your kids’ childhoods more than a few times.
I sure have. Since I held my firstborn infant I can remember family and friends reminding me that it goes so fast and to cherish every moment. And you know what, I did.
Sometimes it wasn’t easy when I was waking up 4 (or 10) times in a night because my one year old wanted to be held, or when trying to figure out how to devote quality time to a toddler with a new baby on hand.
But I consciously tried to savor it all and remind myself that I would miss these times. In spite of truly trying to be present in all the moments, they still seem to have slipped away too.
But I’m left with priceless gifts – remarkable and precious memories, and loving bonds with extraordinary humans that will last a lifetime.
I’m blessed to have special connections with both of my children. My daughter and I have grown to be the closest of friends.
Yes the mother-daughter aspect is still there, but years of listening, advising, supporting, laughing, going on fun outings, hanging out, etc. have forged the most special of friendships.
Similarly, my son and I share a unique connection that stems partly from the fact that we are wired very much the same.
We can talk about everything, nothing is embarrassing. And we can share the whole spectrum of feelings, and still find time to have silly fun.
Parenting Never Ends
This leads me to that revelation I mentioned. It hit me that it’s not really “the end.”
It is a difficult transition and it is ok to feel sad, and even a sense of loss.
But it’s also another beginning, to be embraced.
Our relationships with our children grow and deepen intensely over the years if we invest properly along the way. And so does our love. I once gazed at 1-month old Mia as she slept on me and remarked that I wished she could stay like this forever, that I couldn’t imagine feeling anymore love.
A friend who had children a few years older smiled at me and told me to “just wait.”
He was right.
If we spend quality time with our kids, get to know them as the unique and amazing individuals they are, and cultivate relationships with them that go beyond just parent and child, we all reap the benefits.
The rich and loving friendships I now have with Mia and Ben are so much more than what I had then.
That sweet dependency may no longer be there, but a world of blessings have replaced it. Going off to college and eventually finding their own path in life isn’t the end. It’s a new beginning.
They may no longer be with us on a daily basis, but if we’ve invested wisely, they are our most treasured friends for life. Parenthood is a life-long journey, learning to let go of one stage and welcome in the next.
One final thought about all of this. I believe we should allow ourselves to reminisce about the past, but not live in it. If we let the memories fill us and then focus on the NOW we’re living in, we make sure that this moment doesn’t go by unnoticed.
I am immensely grateful for this journey, and the gift that is available to all of us – being Moms in the Moment.
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This article originally appeared in Mom in the Moment.