Children grow up. God willing, it’s what they do. As parents this can be difficult to watch, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out why. We want them to grow up and experience the things life has to offer. We don’t want to miss out on experiencing those things alongside them.
We look forward to them finishing elementary school and starting high school. We can’t wait to take pictures of them before prom. We nervously await them getting behind the wheel of a car and going away to college.
With my kids recently getting to experience some of these coming-of-age milestones, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to why it is that we as parents feel the melancholy with the nostalgia. Why do we long for them as infants and toddlers? Why does it make us sad to see them standing there in a cap and gown holding a diploma or driving off with friends?
It dawned on me this week that the reason might be found somewhere in the letting go. We let them go on to be their own person, and while that is hard in and of itself, I don’t think that’s the real culprit. The catch is the realization that hits you when you least expect it.
When you see them hug their friends. When they hop in the car with a boyfriend. When they choose to lean on their best friend for help instead of coming to you. It isn’t about you becoming obsolete or needed less in their lives. They’ll always need you in some capacity.
The real drag is when you realize they don’t belong to just you anymore…
Think of it in terms of yourself: a part of you still belongs to your parents and always will. But so much more of you is spread between the other important people in your life. Your husband, children, friends, co-workers, causes, obligations. You’ve become this person so wholly separate from the child you once were. Back when you belonged to your parents entirely. Back when they were your whole life, and you theirs.
Watching your children grow into these beings who belong to others is hard. Her best friend has propriety over her in ways you don’t. Her first boyfriend will as well. Her college roommate. Eventually her husband and children. And as all these important people gain footholds in her life, you lose tiny pieces of her that now belong to them.
As hard as all of this is to experience, don’t despair. Take comfort in knowing that you helped shape her into the person she’s become that has become so important to these other people in her life. You’ve helped make her into someone who is someone else’s “person”. And while you now have to share her with so many, it’s to your credit that she’s able to experience these rich relationships.