I think about the day when Asher will not want me to walk him into school. Or the day he doesn’t want to be tucked in for bed anymore. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll let me tuck him in until he moves out! I know there will be natural transitions as he grows, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy. As I think about these things I was happy to have Cara’s post featured here today.
As someone who is a big advocate for teen writers, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Cara. Not only does she have talent, but she is a cheerleader for teen girl writers! I was so pleased to learn more about Cara and her passion for writing and to encourage others to write. She is my kind of woman 🙂 I know you’ll enjoy her writing as much as I do.
When your children are small and snuggly and clamor for your attention you can’t imagine there will come a day when they will ignore you, dismiss you, or outright avoid you. But the day comes. And it doesn’t matter how sweet and loving your children are, or how close you are or how openly they share their hearts with you; one day they will shun you. I promise.
And it’s a good thing. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.
I looked up the word parenting in the dictionary and it says: “the rearing of children.” And what is “rearing?” I, being a horse person, of course thought of that moment when the horse lifts its front end off the ground and attempts to set you on your butt. But Dictionary.com says, “to take care of and support up to maturity.” I know more than a few parents who might take issue with this since they are continuing to support their mature children well into adulthood. I suppose this only means that it takes some of us longer than others to rear our children.
A big part of supporting our children to maturity is teaching them to function independently. To that end, they will, or they should, naturally separate themselves from us. The fact that they aren’t mature yet means that sometimes they do this with a callousness that causes your jaw to drop and your heart to seize up. To be honest, in my focus group of my two teens (the third one is thankfully still a beautiful little boy who wants me to tuck him in at night), some will do this more than others. But they will all do this.
They have to figure out that they can reject you and not lose you.
And your job as a parent? To take it.
But maybe not all of it. I drew the line with my daughter when she told me to shut up. She can ignore me, roll her eyes at me, argue with me, but she can not under any circumstance tell me to ‘shut up’. I value my opinions and will fight for my right to be heard, especially in my own house.
I think parents that struggle with ‘hovering’ and are overly protective of their kids are in for the worst of it. It takes a much bigger effort to break free of someone who has a death grip on you than from someone who has a loose hold. Finding a balance between the death grip and the loose hold is the art of parenting.
Some kids object to even a ‘loose hold.’ They would prefer you simply stay in the general vicinity rather than have any real impact on their lives. My own daughter made this clear at age two when she told me to stay in the car because she could walk into preschool by herself. She has been gently, and not so gently, asking for this space ever since. Sometimes I can give her the freedom she demands and sometimes I can’t help but hover and direct. Blessedly, for both of us, she is gaining the maturity to have more control of her life. And I am learning to give it to her because I’m well aware that if I don’t she will take it, one way or another.
My other teen has been much gentler with us. Every now and again he asserts his independence, but almost immediately feels badly for disregarding us. He argues with me about his planned activities, school schedule, and hygiene, but he is also quick to give me a hug, regale me with stories of the lunchroom, and seek my opinion on his writing. We’ve done nothing different with this child. He is simply a softer sort of soul.
My daughter wasn’t always the distant one. It hasn’t been so long that I can’t easily call up the memories of her unquenchable need to be held. From the moment she was born, she wanted to be in our arms at all times. I carried her in a sling or snuggly for hours every day, sometimes forgetting that she was there. This led to a few heart-stopping moments as I lit the gas stove or clambered down the basement stairs. At night she became furious with us when we attempted to make her sleep in a crib – alone. I wonder, in my more cynical moments, if we used up all our hugs back then. Or if this independence she asserts now is her way of punishing us for teaching her to sleep through the night by herself.
It is our job to rear these children. It is their job to take the reins at some point. We must let them be in charge of themselves. We can no longer tell them how to act, or what to say. We must let them steer their own lives even if it’s a course we wouldn’t have taken. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it comes more easily to some young people than others. Demanding personal space to do this is natural. If that means I’m not welcome to put my arm around my daughter in public or my son no longer wants my help as he sifts through the details of his day, well, then I’ll find a way to be okay with that. Because if I don’t, I’m certain this will be the part of the rearing where one of them dumps me on my butt.
Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her second novel, Girls’ Weekend, will be published May 3, 2016. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a more intentional life. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.
Pssst-she also has a new book that hits the market next week! Check it out here.