With my kids now only a couple of years from graduating high school and launching into their adult lives, I’ve been thinking a lot about their childhoods. My girls are only eleven and a half months apart – so I was essentially pregnant for two straight years, and then spent several years burning the proverbial candle at both ends in order to meet the many and varied needs of my almost-twins. I cherish the memories of my daughters as little girls, but that was definitely a physically exhausting season of life, and I’ve generally welcomed the self-sufficiency they’ve gained with maturity.
I’m seeing, though, that this current season has its own challenges. When my kids were little, I was definitely exhausted…but I literally controlled everything in their lives – what they ate, where they went, what they watched and listened to, who and what they played with – and I found comfort knowing I was doing everything I could to keep them safe and healthy. It wasn’t about being a helicopter parent; it was simply appropriate at the time. And I’ve always known that the ultimate goal of parenting is to work one’s self out of a job. But it’s one thing to know that in my head and another thing entirely to live it. Thus, there are days now when I’d give my eye-teeth to go back to what seems in hindsight to have been a more-tired-but-simpler time, in order to quell my admitted anxiety about the “what-ifs” of my kids’ next few years.
Of course, that’s impossible. Yet – just as I couldn’t let go of their bike seats too quickly when they were learning to ride without training wheels – I can’t just leave them alone to fend for themselves either, whether that’s in real life or the Wild West world of technology. They do still need guidance, albeit in different ways than before. And – by God’s grace – they’ll still want my feedback even when they’re fully independent. So I’m trying every day to walk the tightrope of balance – being as hands-on as necessary without treating my young adults like children – and continually aiming to discern when to hold on and when to let go.
And I’m seeing that walking that tightrope is actually what it means to “be fully present” at this stage of my kids’ lives. It’s no longer about having them with me every minute of every day. It’s no longer about me orchestrating every element of their daily schedules. It’s no longer about my husband and me being the only ones speaking into their lives. But neither is it about backing away entirely, as too many parents seem to do with their teens. Rather, it’s about a choice to remain mentally and emotionally engaged in order to accurately discern when to step back and when to step in.
This balancing act is exhausting in its own way. And right now it feels even scarier than fearing many years ago that one of my newborns would succumb to SIDS. But I purposed back then – even in my fear – to trust my girls to the Lord so I could get some rest each night. And no matter how precarious the tightrope feels, that’s what I’m trying to do now, too.
Photo Credit: Geoff
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