I no longer have babies or toddlers, and am on the brink of waving goodbye to the preschool stage for good. I love parenting these children who are no longer babies, but are yet to be adults. Although I no longer have to change diapers or bathe them, I am finding that there is a pitfall I must avoid: I cannot move so far into the realm of friend that I forget my more important calling as parent.
I am relishing the reprieve from the constant demand for my presence. While my help is still required at times, the frequency of need for it has lessened, and the hope of a new season is upon us. Yet I must keep in mind there is still more needed from me, stretching beyond my ability to assist with homework (or a valid driver’s license).
Our family has learned how to joyfully live and walk alongside each other, but my husband and I cannot relinquish our sacred responsibility as the parents of these young world-changers-in-the-making. We must teach, train, and lead them as they begin to navigate their new responsibilities. I am all for equitable treatment, but some hierarchies are in place for a reason. I look forward to the day of calling them friend, but that day is not this day. Not yet. So in attempts to keep my own self in line, I have set up some dos and don’ts for the days when the line gets blurry.
DO Connect and Have Fun
My oldest is eleven and the preteen era intimidates me, most likely because I was a total brat when I was that age. What I have found in my tween daughter is a partner who will watch hours of Jane Austen movies with me, a mini-philosopher who wants to make sense of the world and its crazy ways, and a dreamer who is beginning to make plans about how she may impact this time and place for the good of all. Each child is beginning to find what they enjoy and beginning to like things they see that I love. Entering the world of the other is becoming a beautiful space for connection.
DON’T Let Them Disrespect
I cannot exchange fun for a lack of respect. It is my intention to teach the next generation in my home to honor their parents, and respect their elders. Some old values have stood the test of time for a reason and shouldn’t be forgotten. So while a gentle tease or a poignant prod might be in good fun, I will not allow them to address me as a peer friend, because simply put, we are not. I am the permanent parent who loves them, not the feckless classmate trading “your momma” jokes.
DO Allow Them to Make Choices
My children will not have a healthy reverence for the gravity of their choices if I control everything they set out to do, so I practice a delicate balance of holding on and letting go. I will not be the cause of missing out on learning that their choices have consequences, both good and bad. It is my desire to see them experience the joy of choosing wisely, and the hard lesson of choosing foolishly. I see the wisdom they will learn in acknowledging natural consequences as a priceless gift.
DON’T Grow Complacent
For years I have been up in the middle of the night, aiding with bathroom bedlam, and wiping all the things. I am grateful that not only can my children help around the house, they can do it well. However, I am beginning to see that in their blossoming independence is the chance for me to check out. I have more time to do my own thang, but self-care that was once necessary can now easily slip into self-indulgence. Note to self: Get off your butt and go be with your family. Those kids will only be under your roof for so long, and they are watching everything you do.
DO Remind Them They Are Not Alone & DON’T Expect Perfection From Yourself
Loneliness seems to haunt both the young and old, so being able to offer another human the reassurance that you are for them and with them seems like a sacred responsibility. Believing your parents can do anything is a temporal sanctuary, but one I want to offer if possible. By no means do I want my kids thinking I can control the universe, but I do want to offer them the security and memories of feeling dearly loved and cared for by their mother. Imperfect as I am, I want to give them the best of me. I am determined that my children know they will not face this world alone; I will be with them as parent and friend.