They show up in your lives as these adorable bundles of all things sweet – smiles, smells (mostly) toes and fingers, and belly buttons (eventually). At the time you are probably enchanted and scared shitless about the responsibility for a whole additional soul to guide, guard and cherish besides your own. I don’t think it’s a mistake that we start out small and grow bigger because the very pliable nature of human being babies makes for a forgiving environment if “oopsies” should happen – things such as the bottle or bath water just a tad too warm, zipping the tender tummy skin up in a sweater (it was just a centimeter or two) and leaving the younger one on the bed with two and a half year older brother a step or two away. This last culminated in a loud “thwoomp”, piercing scream and truly shocked countenance of the elder son who just wanted to bring his brother down to the wood floor albeit face first to better play with him.
The phases of their lives come and go, shockingly fast at first it seems and then as school kicks in you learn that there are guidelines for these phases that started a few years before. You would have noticed but at the time making sure that their speech and walking behavior wasn’t delayed and that they learned to use the bathroom appropriately was all you were capable of managing. That overwhelming sense of responsibility just deepened with time and you begin to wonder if you’ll be parenting for the rest of your life. The short answer is – no. The longer answer is yes, and there will be ways to liberate yourself and more importantly your child as you both continue to grow, change and learn in the way of human beings everywhere.
School starting does help with the addition of a whole new learning environment and with an additional set of adults not related to you and interested primarily in your child’s education and their grades on your side at last. Well, mostly on your side because after all, teachers are people, too, and not above responding personally to your darling child’s temperament and personality themselves once or twice. When this happens, deep breathing is required and asking your now adolescent son or daughter to start at the beginning, go all the way through and don’t leave anything out of whatever reported infraction or altercation occurred. It is at this point you begin to feel the loosening of the moorings of your responsibility for your offspring and perhaps may choose to move into more of a guide/parent role. The difference being that the message you strive to get across now more than ever because there are these other people in their lives not related to them is that there are consequences out of your control for their actions. Of course, since they were 4 or 5 they learned about these things called consequences and depending on their temperament, astrological sign and personality they may or may not have heeded well adjustments to their behavior (a euphemistic term for time out and the like).
Young adulthood and jobs/college loom and their first big steps into having sole responsibility for themselves, their finances and their lives are taken while in the background parents hover – perhaps anxiously – for a year or two to make sure the fledglings have successfully flown the nest. There will be additional missteps – they are human and imperfect just as you are – and you will remain together as a family to support when necessary and step back just as necessarily when your support is no longer needed. These times of support will begin to grow fewer and fewer until one day you realize with a start that your adorable bundle of smiles and squishy toes and fingers is now a woman or a man, capable of taking on the world. Your role of bringing them into this world and then setting them down to be on their own was as miraculous as their birth – and something for which you are supremely grateful as your own path continues to unfold in the way of human beings everywhere.