She sat in the car seat with her big doe eyes peering out the window at the kind stranger in the distance holding the school doors open for preschoolers to walk in. My youngest seemed incredibly determined, as if she had done it a thousand times…
“Are you okay?” I inquired. She simply nodded, not moving her sight from her destination as I helped her slip her backpack straps through her delicate little arms.
I slid the car door open, she gave me a big hug, hopped off the car, and ran to her teacher.
For me, this was the first moment of aware disagreement I had experienced as a parent. My mind was pleasantly surprised that my introverted child seemed to have no problem independently going out to the world. Even at five years old, she had this! She was good! I must have done something right! Yet, my heart quivered, my throat felt tight, and there was a great effort to hold back tears.
My little girl was growing up.
The pain was deep but so contrary to my rational thinking, and thus I shook it off as silliness or hormones.
The thing about this sadness was that it would come back up regularly throughout the years. When they rode their first bike, first school play, first recital, first sleepover. I am not a crier, but I would ball every time. Same pattern. My heart would quiver, my throat felt tight, and no matter how hard I tried to hold it back, tears would just flow.
It even became a “thing.”
My now ex-husband was the only one who ever seemed to notice since that first time that we took our three-year-old firstborn to see the “Backyardigans live,” and I cried the whole time as our little girl danced while standing on my lap. Her joy radiating with every musical number. Her little eyes glued to the characters as they danced around the stage. It was a magical moment, and one of the first of the many to come.
By the time my girls were 8 and 10, they were performing an aerial silks routine in the cutest little outfits, with glittery glam make-up, red lipstick, and a huge smile on their faces. As I sat watching, my heart quivered, my throat felt tight, and tears just came. For the first time, one of the girls noticed the tears and inquired, and my ex-husband responded, “It’s just what your mom does.”
And it was true. It was what happened to me during every milestone. At this point, it seemed inevitable. I just thought I was the only one. It was not until their teen years came along that I realized that this is commonly shared amongst moms, just not openly spoken about in society from a place of growth.
As a mother to a teen, I have seen my daughters confront demons of the past, create from their hearts, decide what aspects of their personality they want to retain as-is and which they want to push past their boundaries.
I have seen them love every part of themselves, feel great pain, listen to understand, and sometimes feel completely lost. They are in the search to understand who they are and require more and more independence to achieve this.
I feel so full of love when I see the amazing women they are becoming, and I look forward to seeing what adulthood will look like for them sometime soon.
I believe our job as parents is to allow our children to grow and blossom into the humans they choose to be. And I have been blessed to be able to facilitate that for them.
From time to time, I find myself in mourning.
I miss what our relationship was when they needed me, when an embrace would solve everything, when a kiss would heal a wound, when cuddles were acceptable.
I mourn them coming to me for answers and longing for me to spend time with them.
I feel sadness and almost a sense of momentary loneliness not having them continuously by my side as they used to be.
Don’t get me wrong—this is not a complaint, at all.
I love who they are becoming.
I swore when they were born to give them a voice and now they can speak their mind to anyone at any time thoughtfully and respectfully.
I wished to provide them room to explore their personalities without having to abide by societal norms, and they have done just that—with each deciding the level of socialization they are comfortable with and honoring that.
And I have raised them to be independent learners, and they teach me new things every day that I would have never thought of even looking into.
I love them as they are and do not wish them to be any different.
But why has our morning, as parents, of these extreme changes been trivialized by society, by Hollywood? Why isn’t it something that is embraced in the same way that any other loss would be?
Moms are presented as overly emotional, irrational, and selfish when they mourn. All ways I have judged myself when feeling these deep emotions in the past. Nowadays, with teenage years budding away, I have realized that embracing this sorrow is as important in my evolution as it is in theirs.
I am human.
This is something I have always made clear to my daughters as we grow as a family unit. Just because I am an adult does not mean I don’t feel, struggle, or doubt myself at times. And our key for growth has been shining a light on all aspects of who we are.
The solutions that are widely offered by society are either force your teens to hang out—or get over it. Neither of which suits my parenting style. I can understand that these changes toward independence are not only inevitable but what we strive toward, but also give myself space and time to mourn and wholeheartedly feel the sadness of separation, of space, and time.
As a mom, I have chosen to create a life for and with my kids. Everything we have always done has been chosen together. We have designed our lives with each other in it. We are a team that is growing strong individuals.
Being a single mom can sometimes take this a little deeper, as we do not always have another parent to lean on or who can hold space for us when we need it. So, this separation can be more potent, as the kids are not leaving behind a smaller team of two but, instead, a sole individual. Life is changing from being shared with a strong team connection to being alone to start a new.
This is a huge life change.
We are allowed to feel everything fully that comes along with change. So, as my daughters grow from teens to women, I would like to embrace my mourning, knowing it will show up repeatedly as they grow more and more independent.
Teen years are a continuous period of readjustment, and the happiness of seeing them achieve new levels of independence can sometimes overshadow the sense of loss. But being whole means acknowledging all aspects of self, even those that society tells us are selfish.
We can still hold our children up, propel them forward, facilitate their growth, and give ourselves permission to mourn, feel, and grow into a new chapter of our lives.