Mothering Older Kids – How They Prepare For Flight
You don’t prepare them. They make the necessary preparations on their own. You are simply there to lift them up when they fall. My youngest baby bear informed me recently, that this is the year he can finally get rid of his booster seat. “What?! No! I decide that! Plus, you’re still too little,” I thought to myself. Don’t say that to an eight year old boy, BTW. Before I responded to him, a sudden and painful image slammed into my thoughts. It was a large number nine. He’s going to be nine this year. My baby is going to be NINE. That’s almost a whole decade! I panicked. How could it be that we are nine years in the future and I can still feel him kicking me in the ribs and bladder simultaneously? I quickly collected myself and, choking back tears, calmly said, “Yes of course, you’re going to be nine and too big for a car seat.” He went about his business drawing in his sketchbook and I went into the other room, scolded my tears and started dinner, breathing slowly and deliberately.
My thoughts then turned to my daughters, my youngest daughter, about to complete her first year of middle school, has stretched out into the form of a young lady, no longer my chunky baby. My oldest daughter is going to complete her last year in high school, already taller than me and definitely smarter. Firsts, lasts, moments in between; all of it flying into the past too rapidly for me to hold on to. “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” I hate this quote and yet, I love it. Everything happens all at once. Deciding what to pay attention to is of utmost importance.
The tiny fleeting moments tend to be the most memorable.
Sure, the proof on Facebook is fine and wonderful, but you can’t document the split second moment of your daughter’s glee in sharing a moment of triumph with you when she shows you a recently caught tadpole, or the way your oldest wants to sit up late and talk about her life (when she never wants anything to do with you). Definitely don’t reach for your phone to snap a pic of your youngest showing you his most creative dance move. He won’t have the patience and the moment will be gone. Burn it into your brain instead.
The four of us have held on tight to each other, talking, laughing, crying, hugging, dancing, loving. My babies are big kids, now. They are their own people. Witnessing their growth is at once gut wrenching and awe inspiring. Soon, they will leave me and go out into the world. Are they good to others? Are they kind? Can they even do it; life?
I think about when they were tiny and how each moment was so monumental.
All of the “firsts” were carefully documented. First smile, first roll over, first solid food, first word, first steps, first tooth. Now, as we near the completion of my oldest daughter’s senior year, I realize that her firsts are coming to an end. She’s almost ready to leave the nest. She has already begun preparations for flying away. She has tested the waters; seen what life is like as an independent young woman. She will still have some firsts, but those are for her. She will begin to realize that she is (and has always been) her own person. She is going to curate her life the way it works for her. We can make suggestions and offer a safe place to land when she needs it, but her life is her own, now.
We all go through this metamorphosis. We’re supposed to. It’s painful and messy and sometimes we don’t do it gracefully. I am getting my karma for what I put my parents through. It’s human. It is necessary. We have to test the waters in order to grow. Every time I see the clock turn over to 11:11, I make a wish. I wish hard that my babies will make good choices, but also that they will soar and make wild go-with-your-gut-choices. Those are the choices that send us into mistakes. While I hate that they happen, mistakes are what make you grow and gain experience as a human. They help us realize what works and what we have taken for granted. They make us appreciate what we are capable of. Mistakes show you how to correct a bad landing. My wish for my babies: To be strong through difficult times, to be able to laugh at themselves, to wake up each day saying, “What else you got, world? Bring it!”
As they mature, your kids will want you treat them like adults and stop helicoptering. Just the other day, I was shoe shopping and my 8 year old son got bored and asked, “Can I go get my book out of the car?” I fumbled and attempted to put my shoes back on in an effort to go with him to the car. Then, he insisted, “It’s ok, Mom. I have a brain. I can look both ways.” He was right. He can and he needed me to let him do his own thing.
I let him go, fully fearing he would be a pedestrian fatality upon exiting the shop, but he returned, smug with independence.
This is how they prepare to leave you; all righteous. “See Mom. I can do it.” Yes you can, my love. I always knew you could. (Whisper that last part to yourself). It is best just to high five at this point and say something like, “Right on!” and discretely wipe away and gulp down your tears. They can do it. You are the safety net.