When my children were born, I quickly discovered how parenting is completely a 24/7 job. I knew this ahead of time in my head, but it took a little while for my whole body and frame of mind to adjust. I LOVE being a mother, and my children bring me more joy than I can describe. But whether they are with us, at a friend’s house, at school, or with a babysitter, as parents we are always on call and ultimately responsible for them. It was really hard to fully comprehend this the first few months of motherhood, but people told me ahead of time that being a parent ALL of the time would be one of the biggest adjustments. It is also part of what makes it so beautiful and why having a village and a community is so vital.
Lately, I’ve had a new parenting discovery that I’m not ready for at all. I keep pushing it down, pushing it away, in hopes that I am wrong. But I see it, and I knew it would be there, but it feels too soon. Even though my children are young, I look at my parents and see how they are aging in more specific ways. And I’m not ready. I’m not ready at all. Because I already have children who need me to take care of them, who are little enough to still hold my hand. Several years ago I thought about how my parents would need more support and care as they age. I imagined that my children would be in college or that they would be adults when my parents had their own issues. I couldn’t have predicted that my children would be in elementary school or younger when my own parents would need help and extra layers of support.
When I feel in the middle of needs on both sides, I have to stop. I have to stop because when I look into my parents’ eyes, I see the eyes that took care of me 24/7 for years. I see the eyes that were my rock and my first teachers, and I am grateful. The aging hands are the ones that rocked me in the middle of the night as a baby. They taught me what I know about unconditional love and family.
So how do I navigate this new road? I am only at the beginning of it so I truly don’t know yet. Talking to friends helps, since some of them are going through the same thing with their parents while their own children are little.
But one of my favorite things to see is my children and my parents playing together. It bridges a gap that gives me hope as we are on this road together.