Parenting is 20-ish years of hardcore, intensive parenting until your child leaves home, then you’re free as a bird and it’s a cause of celebration. Am I right? So why do I feel so miserable about saying goodbye to this parenting chapter?
My firstborn just turned 21 and frankly, I’m not ready to let go. See, that’s the double-edge sword of this parenting stage. You have to hit the release button. Ease off the control pedal and trust that it’s all going to work out.
Back in ’99, I knew I’d forever be your mum and expected the first 18 or so years would be the most intensive parenting period. I imagined at around 20 years old you’d move out of our family nest and my tied apron strings would be null and void. It was always the plan, wasn’t it?
I expected this shift in life. Yet I am not ready. Ugh. Why am I never ready?
Do I have regrets? Some. Do I wish I could turn back the hands of time? Often. Would I change anything? Never. Except I’d put my phone down more, that I’d do. And I probably would have spent less on Lego. But what’s done is done.
You were the baby that turned us into parents. Forever changed our lives. The baby who made us often question what the hell are we doing? And then we blinked and you’re an adult. First 18 and now 21-years-old.
A real-life adult for goodness sake.
What I wouldn’t give to scoop your toddler-sized self up in my arms once more, squeezing a hug out of you while you squirmed in resistance, breathing in that familiar scent of grass from your skin and brushing sandpit sand from your face and hands. How you loved being outside and in that darn sandpit. And how I hated the constant sand grit underfoot or spilled sand on the bathroom floor from undressing before a bath.
But what I wouldn’t give to vacuum up half the sandpit from my floor once more.
Your sister came along and you near suffocated her with love, and later, your brother joined the ranks, which perhaps you were a little less enthusiastic about. But no matter what, you’ve always been a good big brother to your siblings. And while friends might come and go, you three will always have each other.
I know I don’t need to worry about you. You’re a smart
boy man. You know your responsibilities, make mostly wise choices and love fiercely. You know not to mix dark colours with light, to work hard and to respect others. My work here is practically done, am I right? I hope not, but I suspect so.
And so while I settle into the backseat of this parenting jag and watch you launch into the next chapter, I have some quiet things I want you to carry through life and remember. Things like:
- Always look for the good. No matter how bad the situation is, always look for the good.
- Be kind and be fair. Be the sort of person people remember for admirable reasons, even if it’s just that they were kind with a good heart and a friendly smile.
- Don’t be afraid to fall in love. Love hard and without restraint or fear. You know what they say, it’s better to have loved and lost.. yada, yada, yada. It’s all so true.
- Please know that no matter what, I’m always here. You’re number one cheerleader through life. Though I can’t scoop you up on my hip anymore, I’d like to hedge my bets that I can probably launch myself at your 6ft frame and bring you down with my body weight. Which is kind of the same thing.
And so you’ve turned 21 and that’s a feather in our cap as parents. We survived. Let’s toast to us, for making it. For doing good. Let’s celebrate and look forward to what’s to come. A career, travel, a family of your own – all of the amazing things which adult life brings. The ups, the downs and the in-betweens!
I love you son. I love you, I love you, I love you.
To anyone else struggling with the same shift in their lives, may we release our children from our apron strings and supportively tie each other together with them. It takes a village peeps. Before, during and beyond. Cheers to us! x